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West, Zampella's Bonuses 'Redistributed' Among Remaining IW Employees
West, Zampella's Bonuses 'Redistributed' Among Remaining IW Employees
April 22, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

April 22, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander
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    36 comments
More: Console/PC



Bonuses lost by fired Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella have been "redistributed" among the studio's remaining employees, says a rep speaking on Activision's behalf.

Amid the discussion and speculation surrounding the legal dispute between the publisher and the departed execs, community rep and former game journalist Dan Amrich chose the message board of a Facebook group entitled "Gamers against Bobby Kotick & Activision" to, in his words, attempt to "put some of the more controversial discussions in context, or explain some things that have been misreported."

In the thread, Amrich addresses widespread reports of Infinity Ward employees leaving Activision in the wake of West and Zampella's exit, possibly to join the pair at their newly-founded Respawn Entertainment -- a studio that, while independent, enjoys publisher support from Activision rival Electronic Arts.

"Vince and Jason had very large bonuses; those bonuses are being redistributed to everybody else, to the people who did not allegedly attempt to steal company secrets," writes Amrich, advising members of the group to look at Activision's counter-suit "for details about Vince and Jason's surreptitious attempts to photocopy and scan sensitive documents."

"Activision is not pocketing that bonus money; it's still going to the people who work at IW," Amrich continues. "But you have to work at IW to get it, see?"

In recent days Activision has asserted Infinity Ward is still about 100 staffers strong, citing the studio's "deep bench of talent" under the interim leadership of CTO Steve Pearce and production head Steve Akrich. But numerous industry analysts have warned of risk to the publisher if too many staff departures weaken the studio.

Amrich concedes that the continuing wave of employee departures from Infinity Ward is "not over yet." He writes that "more people will probably go too, looking for new situations. Maybe they will join Respawn, maybe not. I'm confused, because by leaving, they are giving up their bonus -- and the more people that leave, the bigger the bonus gets for the people who stay."

He adds: "I'd think if you are young and hungry and have a vision for a new game, IW would be a really good place to be right now."

Amrich also attempted to field gamer criticism of Activision CEO Bobby Kotick's well-known comments about wanting developers to work in an environment of "skepticism, pessimism and fear," stressing that Kotick was referring to maintaining pragmatism about the economic climate and not to the creative culture of Activision studios.

Nonetheless, Amrich also said that "while I respect him as a businessman, I wish Bobby Kotick would not shoot from the hip so often."

He criticizes the games press who he believes have "willfully misinterpreted" Kotick's often-bombastic comments -- "but at the same time, he has to understand that the whole world is listening, not just the people in the banking community that happen to be in the room when he says stuff."


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Comments


Sander van Rossen
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"I'm confused, because by leaving, they are giving up their bonus" ...

... yes, because *everything* only revolves around money



... right?



These guys are so transparent, I guess they're used to talking to idiots..

Mike Caudle
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Isn't this what they call 'damage control' ? And what does this have to do with anything:



He adds: "I'd think if you are young and hungry and have a vision for a new game, IW would be a really good place to be right now."



Worried the company will not get any new employees?? Rah roh Shaggy.



@Sander

HAHAAAH Just read that....wow.

Andrew Grapsas
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"I'd think if you are young and hungry and have a vision for a new game, IW would be a really good place to be right now."



I can't speak for everyone, but most young and talented software engineers would rather work on a new, vibrant project that they can dig into and own, as opposed to building "Repeat of the same game with a different title 3: Return to the same place you battled before"...

R G
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@Andrew--- Yeah I agree.



Why would I work for IW for one bonus and a series that's most likely going to go down the drain (started with MW2 anyway) when I could work at Respawn and work on new titles? Plus, it's (the new) EA and not Activision, which to me is a big plus right now.

Sean Parton
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"Activision is not pocketing that bonus money; it's still going to the people who work at IW," Amrich continues. "But you have to work at IW to get it, see?"



This comment isn't quite bullshit, but it is disingenuous, because from what they've implied here, there have been plenty others who have left in the mean time who are not taken into account. So that's a dozen or so (I haven't been keeping that close track) people who left who weren't the studio heads that Activision is keeping the bonuses of, because they only said they were redistributing the bonuses of West and Zampella.



Whee math and reading between the lines.

Josh Green
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Yeah see? You're getting your money, see?



Why is it I have a hard time taking anyone seriously who ends a sentence ", see?"



You know, Activision, sometimes the best PR in situations like these is no PR at all.

Tyler Peters
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So the only people who deserve a tiny fraction of the (now) $1.4B in revenue are those who decided to put up with ATVI's delayed bonus payment schedule.

This 'blogger' is not really helping ATVI's cause. And it shows that the only way they can force 'loyalty' is by withholding

Once the payouts occur expect a trickle of employees not bound by contracts to continue for a number of months.

And - stepping back to the current IW management - to put Central Tech as the leadership of IW is such a joke. Did ATVI do this because Jason and Vince hated them so much, or was there actual reasoning? Seems like a spite move to me, since that team, while extremely capable within the tech are, has (nor is required to) no leadership skills.

Sean Davis
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In short, this is clearly a band aid to stop the bleeding (Try and keep more IW staff from defecting). That being said, I have to give Activ credit for at least thinking of the one of the most practical ways to convince staff members to stay with them. I should be so lucky to have bonuses re-distributed my way in my profession.

Joe Stein
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Purely from the numbers side(I am an accountant, not a programer)...



If West & Zampella were supposed to receive $45MM(I think that is the amount there are suing for lost royalities) and there are approximately 100 people left at IW, that works out to an addition $450,000 in bonuses for each employee on average.



While I am sure that amount is weighted based upon the original bonus people were to receive, that is a very serious chunk of change. I am sure that it will come with some sort of employee agreement that states if they leave before a certain date(possibly years) they must return all or a prorated portion of their bonus.



I think that Activision would have been better served by following the example of Microsoft and Bungie. Microsoft retained ownership of Halo, 49% of Bungie and more importantly a good working relationship.

Daniel Piers
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Non-business speak translation: "You want yo money, bitch? Stick with me. I own you. Now get back on the street corner! Daddy wants a sequel."

Lo Pan
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Everyone, having worked there, here is what happened for the remaining staff. The staff members were brought in by HR, they given a letter showing their bonus. Let's say it was 75k.



In order to receive the bonus the staffer needed to sign an agreement to stay at IW for a period of time. If they leave early or are terminated, they will have to repay that bonus back to ATVI.



This a play to keep the staff at IW using a illusionary carrot with a strong legal rope attached to it.



ATVI is about the bottom line. Employees are a means to an end.

Jose Ortiz
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I hope everyone left decides to leave. Of course, with today's economy, you can't blame anyone who decides to stay.



@Lo

Working for a different industry I can say that happens everywhere. They give you as little as possible so you don't go and work for someone else.

Achilles de Flandres
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so... everyone at IW just made about $400,000 each? wait what? I think this needs more clarification.

Bob Stevens
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"I can't speak for everyone, but most young and talented software engineers would rather work on a new, vibrant project that they can dig into and own, as opposed to building "Repeat of the same game with a different title 3: Return to the same place you battled before"..."



Most young people will go anywhere if it gets them into the game industry. Beggars can't be choosers.



"Why would I work for IW for one bonus and a series that's most likely going to go down the drain (started with MW2 anyway) when I could work at Respawn and work on new titles? Plus, it's (the new) EA and not Activision, which to me is a big plus right now. "



Because Respawn, well-funded as it is, is a startup and has a risk of failure, whereas IW is safe for a few years yet.

Bob Stevens
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"so... everyone at IW just made about $400,000 each? wait what? I think this needs more clarification. "



Well you can blame Gamasutra for turning present or possibly future tense ("are being redistributed") into past tense in the article title. I believe said redistribution was tied to the lawsuit, but I don't recall.

David Hottal
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It's typical in corporate America that you don't get your bonus if you aren't there when they pay it out.



'I'm confused, because by leaving, they are giving up their bonus -- and the more people that leave, the bigger the bonus gets for the people who stay." Seems to imply that the bonus pool is fixed, the variable is the number of developers that make up the distribution [Bonus Pool] / [Active developers] = [Payout].



If you take them at their word, they are re-distributing all unclaimed bonuses to the remaining developers. At least in this case, it's the right thing to do.

Maurício Gomes
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@Bob You are right on the spot...



I am one of those (altough I will not SEEK Activision or EA, they make me cringe... But if I get a offer from them... I would probably take it...)

Derek Smart
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@ Jose



Well yeah, if it happened as Lo indicated, then they're not giving out the bonuses because they feel the team is deserving of it. They are giving it with strings. Thats just wrong.



I don't care who is right or wrong in this case, but to say they're giving the employees the bonus, while clearly not stating that it comes with strings, is highly suspect.

Jon DoeAnon
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A lot of monetary agreements to the grunts in the game industry (bonuses, moving expenses, etc) are based on the person staying for x amount of time. Typically this means that the money is not given out if the person leaves _or is let go_. So what are they actually offering the employees? I wouldnt be surprised if they are offering the bonus money that they have because they fired the heads early, to everyone else on the condition that they dont fire them early too.



I wonder if accepting such a large amout of money would actually put a big target on your back if / when a round of layoffs happened? I mean would you rather fire someone you pay < $100k to, or the person who is getting a bonus of over 4x that much?

Michiel Hendriks
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@Bob "Because Respawn, well-funded as it is, is a startup and has a risk of failure, whereas IW is safe for a few years yet. "



While IW might be safe as a company, your position has a developer with IW is not. What happened to West and Zampella could as well happen to you. Activision has clearly shown that they are sue-happy.

Achilles de Flandres
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@ Derek Smart



Yeah, good point. I didn't quite notice the fine print. Those employees have ALREADY earned their bonus, therefor, it shouldn't come with a conditional clause. I suppose that the strings-attatched are because now they're getting another bonus, the one that should have gone to West & Zampella.



Now that kind of changes the situation, since it's additional money on top of the bonus they've already earned.

Derek Smart
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They're trying to use the additional bonus as an incentive to stop the bleeding. Sadly, it will most likely work. Too bad they didn't do it before the 20+ people left. heh

brandon brown
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If you have to offer your employees 400k not to quit, there is defiantly a major problem somewhere. But i guess my hats off to activision, because at least they found a way to stop the company from completely collapsing

Achilles de Flandres
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I'm surprised this news story hasn't generated more comments. everyone at the company I'm currently working at is jabbering about it for the past 3 hours.

Chris Kaminari
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This seems like a act of fear to me from Activision. They have already lost employees to West and Zampella, and now that the ones that arent "trustworthy" are gone, there now gonna rub it in everyones (West, Zampella, and co.) face.

Now Activision thinks it truly owns and runs Infinity Ward on more then one level. This is just corporate walk-around bulls**t.

And yeah, I agree with everyone when they say "Who wants to work for a company that kills a formula with repeats, over and over". Activision is not a fan of change, there creatures of habit, and yes if anyone did bring a new formula to the table, Activision would bury the shit out of it.

Buttt....again, beggars cant be choosers, and that hits home. It sucks, but if you do have a really god idea, dont let it be a personal idea, because your gonna get fucked more then a gang bang.

I wish all companys were like the Bungie/Microsoft split, that was calm and orderly, and now Bungie has its own studio and no one to tell them what to do, and a publisher.

Derek Smart
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Hilarious. This is is the ultimate "FU and your bonuses" to Activision. A bunch of IW folks have just quit and gone to Respawn.



http://g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/704164/TheFeed.html?utm_source=
g4tv&utm_medium=twitterblog&utm_campaign=so-0907-twitterthefeed-7
04164&cmpid=so-0907-twitterthefeed-704164

R G
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@Bob Stevens--- Young people may not have a wide variety of choices, but most of them would be able to see and think, hopefully, "Hey, this is where the talent is. IW is just a shell at Activision. Most of the seniors are leaving, so maybe if I go with Respawn I can work on some innovative titles with them and pick up some major skills".



I see your point, but you have to remember that your not prodded to work wherever you can. Respawn is currently open, among other studios, is in need of employees and the people there (mainly West and Zampella) are worth a lot.

Achilles de Flandres
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@ Robert Allen

That's been updated to reflect today's new defectors. 7 people have left Infinity Ward even upon knowing of the promised bonuses. They turned down A LOT of money to work for ReSpawn.

Sean Parton
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@Robert Gill: I don't know what the current job climate for our industry is down in California, but I doubt it's that forgiving. I have friends here in Vancouver who would do just short of kill to get a job right now. And in light of this situation, which has better job security and better pay?



Clearly you'd go with Respawn, and I'd at want to at least consider my options and what project I'd work on instead of just going for better pay and benefits, but we're not everyone. Student loans (or just credit in general) can be a real pain in the neck, and not everyone can take the "nicer" option, even if they do care about such a thing.

gus one
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It's sad that not even knowing the facts everyone here wants ATVI to fail. But what it does demonstrate is the great divide between the creative free love type souls (artists, developers et al) and the commercial (the evil management). Never the twain shall meet. Anyway Kotick is doing what we would do on Wall Street - everyone has a price beit a nice house in the valley, turbo charged camero, running lead for a team in one of the most high profile studios. And respawn is not going to rehire all 100 employees so I think you'll find more people staying at least until they get their pot of gold than going. And that will fit ATVI's timeframe for an orderly winddown of IW.

Michael Smith
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I wonder how many are waiting for the dust to settle -- their bonuses collected -- before they leave.



It's odd to me that they'd give bonuses to current employees rather than the ones that worked on CoD:MW2. What about a guy who got hired a couple weeks ago? Does he get that bonus if it's a IW company thing instead of a CoD:MW2 contributor thing? Or will they have their cake and eat it too?

Sander van Rossen
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"... In order to receive the bonus the staffer needed to sign an agreement to stay at IW for a period of time. If they leave early or are terminated, they will have to repay that bonus back ..."



So what would stop Activision from firing people just before the end of that period?

Judging by the sociopaths in their upper management, I wouldn't put it past them.

If I'd work there, I wouldn't really feel safe knowing that some day I might get fired and then be forced to pay back a huge sum of money..

gus one
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Don't be silly. Employment law does not allow companies to just fire people for no reason. It would have to prove gross misconduct or its constructive dismissal. If the job actually became redundant (i.e. closing the studio) then the company would have to honour the agreement and contract and the payout would be made.

Sander van Rossen
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@gus one TBH, I always had the impression that in the USA your boss could just fire you on a whim. Good to hear that that isn't the case.

Achilles de Flandres
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well put Bill Boggess. Well put.

Michael Wenk
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@gus



It depends where they live. If they live in California, then generally employment is "at will." This means one can be fired at any time for any reason. There are some limits of course. An employer cannot discriminate, and if they're equal opportunity, then there are some other limits, but generally an employer can terminate employment for any reason. About the only thing one can do is file for unemployment and then one will get it unless the employer can prove that you were fired for cause, and that is complicated.



Also, my understanding is that in at will employment, once you are paid a bonus or wage then the employer can't ask for it back, unless it was a mistake or error, like the pay stub said 100$ and you were actually paid 110$. Of course this may be a law that companies ignore due to employee ignorance.



Other states are different of course.


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