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West, Zampella Form Respawn Entertainment, Reveal EA Deal
West, Zampella Form Respawn Entertainment, Reveal EA Deal
April 12, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

April 12, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
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Just following Activision's counter-suit against ousted Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, the pair have revealed their new plan -- and as alleged and widely rumored, an agreement with Electronic Arts is part of it.

West and Zampella today announced their new studio, Respawn Entertainment, and a publishing agreement with EA Partners. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, it's EA's seed capital that's providing the startup funds for the project. Respawn will own its IP, however.

Respawn also said that EA, through its EA Partners division, holds exclusive worldwide publishing and distribution rights for future titles coming out of the new studio. "This is like the time the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees," EA Games head Frank Gibeau told us.

"Respawn Entertainment marks a fresh start for Jason and me," said Zampella, who will act as the new studio's general manager, in a statement. "For the past decade we led a great development team and poured our hearts into creating an epic game franchise. We're very proud of what we built -- and proud that so many millions of fans enjoyed those games. Today we hope to do it all over again -- open a new studio, hire a great team, and create brand new games with a new partner, EA."

"We're excited," adds Respawn president West. "Now that the team is in control of the games and brands, we can ensure that the fans are treated as well as they deserve."

The pair said they're staffing up for a variety of positions; a new official site for the studio currently contains only an email address for inquiries about jobs.

The pair have been in the midst of a public dispute with Infinity Ward parent Activision over the Modern Warfare brand they helped build as the heads of Infinity Ward.

Activision fired Zampella and West for alleged insubordination in early March, just a few months after the November launch of Infinity Ward's video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which has generated over $1.5 billion globally. The pair sued the publisher for $36 million over the firing.

Late last week the publisher filed a counter-suit, accusing Zampella and West of trying to "steal" Infinity Ward. The counter-suit also includes an allegation that the pair went "on a secret trip by private jet to Northern California, arranged by their Hollywood agent, to meet with the most senior executives of Activision's closest competitor."

Gamasutra sources have said that going independent has long been a desire of West and Zampella's, and that a contentious relationship between Infinity Ward and its publisher has existed since the beginning of Modern Warfare 2's development, with the studio's desired original IP project coming into conflict with Activision's production schedule for Modern Warfare games.

Activision's counter-suit now aims to withhold future payments to West and Zampella to compensate itself for a "period of [the pair's] disloyalty". The publisher also wants damages.

Activision has since re-organized its Call of Duty brand, as newly-formed Activision studio Sledgehammer -- itself founded by high-profile EA defectors Glen Schofield and Michael Condrey -- is now making a Call of Duty game for 2011.

"It has a certain irony to it," Gibeau told the LA Times of West and Zampella's return to making games for his company (the pair were involved in EA's Medal of Honor series). "But the fact that they were in this situation was a stunning opportunity for us."


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Comments


Fiore Iantosca
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EA is just as bad as Activision IMO. This is not good news.

Kevin Jones
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Now who didn't see this coming?

EA was always going to try and exploit the situation to help themselves while at the same time, trying to somehow do some damage to Acitivision.

I wonder why West and Zampella went with EA though, instead of simply raising money from the huge venture capital firms in Silicon Valley like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, so they could remain totally independent from a big game publisher. After all, it was hooking up with a big games publisher like Activision that got them into trouble in the first place. With their excellent track record, they'd have had no problem raising venture capital money at all.

Inevitably, this is going to end up hurting Activision in one way or the other, albeit it may take a few years for the full effects of West and Zampella leaving Infinity Ward to be felt. I full expect even more defections from Infinity Ward to go join West and Zampella at Respawn.

Bobby Kotick shoulda paid them the $30 million in bonuses they were demanding, after their game, MW2 made over $1 billion in sales in just 2 months, but no, he had to be short sighted and greedy as usual. Bobby Kotick held the penny too close to his eye to see the thousand dollar bill behind it, and it's gonna end up costing him. You simply don't let go the hens that lay the golden eggs, unless the hens turn into some kind of dragons, which was siimply not the case here.

Simon Albert Boudreault
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Now I'm curious to see how many of Infinity Ward's staff are going to migrate there. This is definitely not good news for Activision.

Bobby A
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A lot of the best games I've played in the last few years start with an EA logo. Regardless of speculation we outsiders could throw around about current inner workings at EA, they are pumping out a lot of high quality content.

R G
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LMAO Wow I'm crying tears of laughter. Like we didn't see this coming. I wish you could see how hard I'm laughing lol.



Funny, because they left EA in 2001 or 2003...and now they're back, though with better terms I do believe.

Alex Rybakov
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Then they can sell the new company to EA. Then quit and form another one. The sell it to, say, Disney or Ubisoft. Then... So, who is being greedy here?

ben casey
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@Alex



I think it has more to do with being in control of what they want to work on and produce and less about being greedy. Many indications so far seem to point to West and Zampella looking to diverge into something a bit different while Activision wanted to hear nothing of it. Plus, West and Zampella wanted to keep the Modern Warfare branding with IW which is now a huge cash-cow for Activision. Now that they're independent, they'll have a heck of a lot more liberty to work on what they want.



EA has really changed their tune in the last couple of years, and I applaud them for it.

Tyler Peters
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This makes complete sense, actually. At the level of sales Jason and Vince can theoretically command, you need a massive publishing partner. Aside from the obvious first parties, the only third party groups that make sense are Activision, EA, and possibly Ubisoft. Everyone else wouldn't have either the money nor the global distribution presence.

Good luck guys, we're all behind you!

Kevin Jones
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@ Alex Rybakov :"Then quit and form another one. The sell it to, say, Disney or Ubisoft. Then... So, who is being greedy here? "



#1. They didn't exactly "quit" Acitivision. They were sacked, with Activision bringing in cops to forcibly kick them out of the building no less.

# 2. Activision paid a measely $5 million for Infinity Ward. I don't call that "greed" on West and Zampella's part. I'd say they are the least greedy people I ever saw. They literally gave Infinity Ward away for a song to Activision.

david vink
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I suppose EA will now settle the problems with Activision for an undisclosed amount on behalf of West and Zampella?

Kevin Jones
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@ Tyler Peters



:"At the level of sales Jason and Vince can theoretically command, you need a massive publishing partner."



Publishing partner is fine. Having EA take part ownership by taking seed mney from EA instead of from venture capitalists is not so great.





"Aside from the obvious first parties, the only third party groups that make sense are Activision, EA, and possibly Ubisoft"



They could also go download only games on XBL, PSN, iPhone, Android, Win Phone 7, or form alliances with the deep pocketed Google and/or Apple.

Kevin Jones
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@ david vink : " I suppose EA will now settle the problems with Activision for an undisclosed amount on behalf of West and Zampella? "



No.

Acitivision may want to settle with West and Zampella for all the money they owe them though. I believe $30 million has been mentioned.

Alex Rybakov
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2 Kevin Jones

1. Cops? Check your data first. The guys clearly tried stealing key IW people from ATVI to form a new studio with ERTS as a publisher in mind. Preventing it from happening is the only logical explanation to ATVI action. And yes, such plan is not what employees "normally" do to their employer and easily can be "breach of contract".

2. Unlikely ATVI forced them to sell their company for this price.



> Acitivision may want to settle with West and Zampella for all the money they owe them though. I believe $30 million has been mentioned.

When you sign a contract to "work for hire" there is no such thing as royalty. There may be bonuses though. But they are paid to employeees, not former employees. I'm sceptical ATVI ows anything but I'm not a lawyer and haven't read their contract.

Kevin Jones
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@ Alex Rybakov



" Cops? Check your data first"



Yes cops.

YOU check your data, mate.



"The guys clearly tried stealing key IW people from ATVI to form a new studio with ERTS as a publisher in mind"



Total crap.

This is America, we don't do slavery here. You can't force anyone to go work for you if they don't want to. IW staff were and are free to join whoever they want.

It is telling, that even after West and Zampella left IW, some of the top staff at IW still resigned from IW anyway. That tells you exactly what they think of Activision and Bobby Kotick doesn't it?

Earth to Alex Rybakov, West and Zampella DID found IW. They have very close working and personal relationships with IW staff. If it comes down to chosing who most of this guys want to work for, it sure as heck won't be Bobby Kotick. West and Zampella don't have to steal anybody. They will come running to West and Zampella by themselves.

Kevin Jones
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@ Alex Rybakov



:"When you sign a contract to "work for hire" there is no such thing as royalty."



They were employees (not contract workers), and were as entitled to share in company profits through bonuses, as all these hacks at Wall Street are, especially since they have delivered monster selling games and huge profits, and they founded the company in the first place.

Take away IW and the COD franchise that IW brought to Activision, and Activision is nothing much(leaving out Blizzard). None of Acitivision's own franchises even comes close to the COD franchise that came from IW, when it comes to generating money. Acitivision's Guitar Hero franchise is already down in the pitts, due to ruthless over exploitation of the franchise by Bobby Kotick.

Joe Elliott
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You sound like the EA wives from 2004. EA clearly evolved as they now focus on creativity and put forward new creative business models. But I guess you can't evolve your opinion of them.

Rodney Brett
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I agree with Joe, EA's changed since those bad PR times. I have many friends at various EA studios across the country and they have nothing but good experiences with them right now. Apart from the mass firings in an attempt to consolidate, they seem like they are focusing a lot more on original IP again.

Zach Grant
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I still would never buy a multiplayer focused game from EA, even if it was from these guys. EA likes to shut down servers quickly after release, so you are forced to buy the next iteration.

Thomas Rab
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@Kevin & Alex



"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."



This was from the first report Gamasutra did on the duo leaving. It doesn't look like Cops were brought in. Security personnel implies private security.


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