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Activision: Infinity Ward Still 100 Strong As Pearce, Ackrich Take Interim Leadership
Activision: Infinity Ward Still 100 Strong As Pearce, Ackrich Take Interim Leadership
April 19, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

April 19, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
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Following the departure of founders Jason West and Vince Zampella, much scrutiny has fallen on Modern Warfare 2 developer Infinity Ward amid a flurry of reports of developers leaving, possibly to join the pair at their new project, Respawn Entertainment.

And analysts have voiced the possibility that loss of key talent could hurt future installments of the lucrative Call of Duty business, but in an LA Times interview, chief financial officer and chief operating officer Thomas Tippl stressed the brand's continuing strength.

"We’ve had multiple studios working with the franchise so we can come up with innovative, new content every year," he said. "Nobody should be surprised that we will continue to focus disproportionately against the franchise."

And as for Infinity Ward, it still has nearly 100 members under new interim leadership, Tippl said. "We have two senior execs currently: Steve Pearce, our chief technology officer, and Steve Ackrich, who is the head of production for the company," Tippl explained. "We are currently in the process of configuring the new leadership team there."

He also said that the "change of guard" at the studio "will provide an opportunity for some of the rising stars to put their own stamp on the Call of Duty franchise," adding that Activision "will provide them with all the resources internally and recruit talent from the outside."

A handful of key staff has left Infinity Ward in the wake of the firings West and Zampella. Programmer Jon Shiring and senior animator Bruce Ferriz left the studio following the shakeup, as did lead designer Todd Alderman and lead software engineer Francesco Gigliotti. Late last week, it was revealed that longtime employees Mark Grigsby and Paul Messerly also left the company.


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Comments


David Delanty
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I disagree, Tim.



I feel that the value of a company is in the entire team, and cannot be solely credited to just one or two workers.

Brent Orford
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I agree with... both of you. :) 8 people left so far, 100 remain... the team that's left is still immensely talented.



With that kind of negative morale affecting your work place, it certainly can't be a joyous place to be right now. Taking them on a team building exercise isn't going to right the ship; they've definitely lost their voice in the room. If I'm Activision, I'm not sure how you make things right by the remaining talent in the studio, it just looks real bad from an outside observer! I'd venture to guess that more people are probably trying to get their ducks in a row before they jump ship.



They should give all proceeds from the stimulus package directly to IW's remaining employee's as a gesture of good faith, and make it a Stimulus package for the studio. :)

Josh Green
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@Tim: It's a part of show business. That's why such people at the top start new companies after getting canned from the old one. Despite the misfortune and pain they cause, events like these are healthy for the industry as they allow for creative people to move on and start something new.

Michael Wenk
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Well, since the whole interview is really aimed at Wall Street, I'll analyze it in that context. So in that context it doesn't matter if its true that the lost people make a difference or not. In Wall Street's eyes, the franchise is imperiled by the loss of talent. I don't really think it helped, and ATVI's stock price is down so that shows it. Rather than granting a fluff interview, the best thing would be to do something positive, like releasing a game that does well critically as well as by sales, or attracting some big name talent. Something to show that ATVI's strong even without the IW guys.



I do think the whole CoD franchise will remain under a shadow until the new guard releases a new game that beats the old CoD game's sales, and one that was developed primarily by them.

Reid Kimball
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History has told me that when core talent leaves, the consequences take a long time to play out and I think more talent will leave over the coming months. Activision says they have 100 on staff still, but it will continue to fall.

Josh Green
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@Reid: To your point, it's likely that a number of IW employees' employee contracts include non-compete language which tie them to ATVI until they lapse.

Jason Brau
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The change in company culture is just as important as the talent exodus.



The message that has been sent, rightly or wrongly, is that you can be canned on a whim even in the face of overwhelming success. I don't know how that message can lead to a healthy, motivated company culture and work environment.



If people are worried about the stability of their company, that's a huge detractor from them doing their jobs well.

Brent Orford
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@Josh



The state of California doesn't allow for non-compete clauses. IW is in Los Angeles.

Josh Green
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Tim: You're deluding yourself if you think this sort of thing doesn't happen in other media. Conan O'Brien is a perfect recent example.



I think you're missing the point I was trying to make. The firing of West and Zampella is an opportunity for the industry. Those two now have major start-up funding from EA to create a new studio that owns its own IP. A lot of people have recognized that Infinity Ward will likely struggle with the loss of its core leadership. So basically, this firing is helping to make an individual talent-driven industry a reality.

Adam Bishop
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@ Tim



"it's taken us centuries to learn that individual talent matters"



Um, no. I guess you've never read Plato? Because there are passages in The Republic - a 2500 year old book - which is precisely about how much individual talent matters. Hyperbole may be fun, but it doesn't help your argument much.

Jason Bakker
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Why do companies keep reassuring stockholders by talking about the "execs" that are in position at a studio. ie. "Don't worry, we've got a couple of execs there, it's under control." See also Bruckheimer talking about his game studio, http://j.mp/dpGTvn .



Soon the general populace is going to realise that it's the programmers, artists and designers that actually make games, and that execs don't really mean crap - it's the team that matters. Until then, we'll be baffled by companies and spokespeople assuring us that because execs are in place, everything's okay.

gus one
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Nonsense Jason. Developers make games and commercial business people sell them. For a successful business you need both. The problem you have is when developers try and run the business (West/ Zampella are not commercial) or when the business runs the developers (for example forcing them to compromise/ rush etc). It's a very fine line balancing those two opposing forces but get it even half right and you'll have a very successful business (read Activision). They could wind IW down for all I care. IW is irrelevant since they have the IW4.0 engine so Sledgehammer will not have a problem making the follow up. The mindless masses who will buy MW3 in their millions wont be checking the 'wrapper' to see West/ Zampella were not involved. They'll have to do something though about the 100 employees not even working on another game (other than another map pack or two DLC) since it is an uneccessary cost expense.

Jason Bakker
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I agree with you that an executive's role becomes more important when it comes to release and marketing, but in both of these cases people are talking about the execs being there in early/mid development phases, not in the marketing and release phase.


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