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Report: Infinity Ward Studio Heads Ousted For 'Insubordination'?
Report: Infinity Ward Studio Heads Ousted For 'Insubordination'?
March 2, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

March 2, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

Activision believes two senior-level employees of Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward may have breached contract and committed insubordination -- and it's conducting an investigation it says will involve "the departure of key personnel" and litigation.

The publisher reveals its staff discord via a new SEC filing -- at the same time widespread consumer media reports point to the sudden departure of studio president Jason West and rumors that co-founder Vince Zampella is out as well.

Rumors began swirling around Infinity Ward with a G4 report claiming studio brass were no longer seen by staff after a meeting with Activision, and that security personnel may have even arrived at the studio facility, leaving the staff "freaked out."

The report's source also says that a Facebook status purportedly from West stating he is "drinking" and "no longer employed", uncovered by consumer weblog Kotaku, is genuine. At the same time, West's LinkedIn page was changed to reflect the apparent end of his work with Infinity Ward.

"The Company is concluding an internal human resources inquiry into breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward," reads Activision's filing -- specifically, an amendment to its annual report made yesterday.

"This matter is expected to involve the departure of key personnel and litigation," continues the filing. "At present, the Company does not expect this matter to have a material impact on the Company."

The SEC filing doesn't reference anyone at Infinity Ward by name nor confirm widespread media reports that Zampella -- whose LinkedIn profile at press time shows him still employed with Infinity Ward -- has in fact also left the company.

In January, Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 passed $1 billion in worldwide retail sales. As fellow Activision studio Treyarch develops the next installment in the nonlinear Call of Duty franchise, Infinity Ward is believed to be at work on a new IP, part of the terms of its long-term agreement with Activision.

Gamasutra has contacted relevant parties for comment and will update with any further information we receive. Meanwhile, official sources are remaining mum -- traditionally-vocal Infinity Ward spokesperson Robert Bowling said on his Twitter he had nothing to say about the situation.

"I should also say, while I appreciate all the calls, tweets, messages and hearing my ringtone a lot, they're in vain--as I have no info," he wrote.

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@David-- Made my day with that one.

This is what really went down. Jason and the other(s) woke up one morning and decided:

"Hey, I'm not liking where CoD is going, DLC should be free, we should have dedicated servers, and not publish half developed games".

But he was fired when he requested that coffee and Mountain Dew fountains be installed so that during Crunch the staff would at least be well kept.

Miss you, Jason. Hope you get a job soon.

David Crooks
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*waits for the inevitable follow-up article "Ex-Infinity Ward employees set up new studio owned by EA, to be called "2015"*

Fredrik Liliegren
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Was it bonus time maybe?

Fiore Iantosca
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Did developer think they were larger than publisher? LOL

Callum Hay
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Developers are larger than publishers in my opinion, I suppose it depends on the quality you are quantifying.

Anton Maslennikov
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Tim Schafer's comment about his was quite good.

Irregardless, it is all bad news for Infinity Ward and my thoughts are with the team. Lets hope they land on the ground running.

Tyler Peters
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@ Fiorentino I:

MW2 generated over 1B in cash in 2009 alone. So yes, IW is bigger than most publishers.

Jason and Vince have enough money, so I doubt they'll be hungry for jobs.

The concern is that they have an incredibly (and rightfully so) loyal staff. If there was another project on the horizon, it's in the shitter now.

I wonder how much of this is attributable to avoid a full bonus payout.

Josh Green
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I wonder if this has anything to do with maybe not wanting to do yet another Call of Duty game...

Bob Stevens
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If there ends up being litigation involved as suggested by the SEC filing, we may be able to dig info out of the documents. Otherwise all the speculation is pretty worthless, and there may not be much more info to leak.

Chris Proctor
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Man, talk about killing the golden goose.

Tip: it's just an ordinary goose, cutting it open destroys its magical properties.

Ed Alexander
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What troubles me is the implied use of force.

The police are one thing, but from what I've heard so far, it was "a bunch of bouncer-types" described. Is this a third party security agency? Were they employed by Infinity Ward? Activision? The building IW resides in? Were they private or public security? Or security at all?

Why would there be the presence of physical force to contain the situation? Were any employees needing to leave for legitimate reasons and detained? Did the security act in a manner that complies with the law?

This whole situation is absolutely bizarre. At first I thought it was just some sort of publicity stunt, which remains to be seen I suppose, but if this whole situation is legitimate... then wtf? Why is Activision dropping the hammer so damn hard on one of the three pillars holding the publisher up in the first place?

It's like we woke up in the Twilight Zone yesterday...

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Ed Alexander
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Well I've only been in the industry a couple years, haven't exactly been subject to something like this. Guess I'm just green. ;)

Activision has 3 franchises where it primarily draws the majority of its revenue from - World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Guitar Hero. We know Guitar Hero has been declining to the point where they fired the guy in charge of the franchise. World of Warcraft, for the first time, has shown a decline in subscription. I suppose I can see why they might react so critically to Call of Duty...

Paul Tessmann
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Activision doesn't work with Blizzard in the same way it worked with Infinity Ward. Activision and Blizzard are partners under Vivendi, so Activision doesn't have a say on what they do. Besides, I suspect a decline in subscriptions from 11 million isn't anything they're too worried about.

I'm still surprised by it - this is how Activision treats its successful studios?

Robb Lewis
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I doubt legal action would be taken if it was simply disagreement over title future. will be interesting so see it playout.

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@David-- Yeah, man. Devs are treated like the rowers on one of those old, ancient ships. Your only good to the crew as long as you can keep rowing. So the rowers would sing songs. In this case, they wanted, nay, needed amazing fountains.

Benjamin Marchand
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Is this "personal message" the reason ?