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EA's Gibeau: Respawn Deal 'Fell Into Our Laps'
EA's Gibeau: Respawn Deal 'Fell Into Our Laps'
May 4, 2010 | By Kris Graft

May 4, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

From a commercial standpoint, Activision essentially rules the first-person shooter market with one franchise: Call of Duty.

But now rival Electronic Arts believes it's poised to take back some of the shooter market, thanks in part to upcoming games like a rebooted Medal of Honor, and a distribution deal with Respawn Entertainment, the studio founded by the two fired heads of Activision-owned Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward.

"[The Respawn deal] was something that fell into our laps, after they were terminated and announced they were free and independent, and we went for it," said EA Games label president Frank Gibeau in a new Gamasutra feature. "The fact that those guys are doing what they're doing, we're very excited."

Gibeau is very careful with his wording. Activision fired former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West earlier this year, accusing the two of "insubordination." Activision alleged that the two flew to Northern California to strike a deal an unnamed competitor, presumably EA, while still employed at Activision, an allegation that both EA and Respawn are quick to deny.

Respawn has yet to reveal what they're working on -- or if it's a shooter at all -- as the studio ramps up hiring efforts.

Gibeau admitted that Activision "certainly" has ruled over the shooter category. The most recent Infinity Ward game, November's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, had generated over $1 billion as of January. The recently-released $15 map pack add-on for the game sold 2.5 million units in its first week on Xbox Live.

"Jason [West] and Vince [Zampella] and their team [at Infinity Ward] clearly created and did things in the entertainment business that have never been done for in gaming. So lots of respect to them. Those guys are big players," Gibeau said.

"The fact that we were able to take advantage of an opportunity that came our way and partner with Respawn and create a relationship with them has been spectacular, something that we're very excited about. It's a key part of how we're growing our EA Partners business going forward," he added.

Along with EA DICE's Battlefield, another major component to the publisher's overall shooter market strategy is Medal of Honor, a franchise reboot set in modern day Afghanistan, as opposed to the series' traditional World War II setting. Gibeau also noted that EA Partners has signed deals to bring other first-person shooters to market, including Crytek's Crysis 2 and Epic and People Can Fly's Bulletstorm.

"From an overall shooter portfolio standpoint, we fully intend to go into the shooter category to shake it up," Gibeau said.

For more from Gibeau, as well as the creative heads behind the new Medal of Honor, read the full Gamasutra feature.

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Chris Kaminari
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That deal didnt fall into EA's lap, they set it up, and if West and Zampella were to get fired, they both knew that they would be fine if EA was going to go through with this deal.

I laugh that they got fired for secret meetings and insubordination, while yet here they are, making there own company, and they got picked up by one of the biggest gaming giants, on par with Activision, EA.

I personally feel like this whole thing between West and Zamp., is just a huge slap in the face for Activision, but a golden oppurtunity for EA, if West and Zamp. are actually gods at what they do.

Michael Martin
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The knee jerk reaction is to "boo" Activision for the Infinity Ward mess, but the more I think about it, it makes me wonder:

Activision: You're making a secret deal with EA, you're fired!

West & Zampella: Oh yeah?! We'll show you! EA already agreed to provide funding for our new company... Oh, uh, never mind about that last part... give us our money!!

I know it's more intricate and nuanced than that, but it does make ya wonder... :)

Alan Rimkeit
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@Chris Lombardi - Really? Have they proven all of that in a court of law yet? I had not heard that they did.

Nick Donaldson
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@Tim's last sentence: ...except to fulfill it's contractual obligations so that talent can do its thing with corporate money. You can't really glaze over that part. Yeah you can argue that the contract was broken by one party or the other, or unfair, etc., but to just outright say that talent deserves everything and corporate nothing is ridiculously naive.

I don't exactly understand where you get off saying that things don't work this way in other industries - every business requires money input from one source to fund the work of another. What magical industry is completely self sustaining without any sort of financial input from outside sources? It doesn't matter if the money is through stock purchases, loans, or purchases by a consumer because they all come with obligations from the recipient to the provider, whether or not there is "talent" involved.

Again, you can say things were unfair in the IW/Activision situation and you may be right - I'm not going to argue that particular case, but it's just downright silly to extrapolate that any further.

Alan Rimkeit
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I just hope EA treats these people better than they did before and better than Activision did. Treat the talent well then they will bring the company fame and fortune. Well, at least as long as the talent kicks ass

Chris Kaminari
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Where, in any of that, did I state that they cant pick up and move and do what they want? ABSOLUTELY nowhere.

I applaud West and Zampella for going out and doing something, but just like everyone else, they were seeing what there options were, and got caught. Activision states in there counter-suit to West and Zampellas initial filing of $36 Million, that the two of them were conjuring secret meetings, and using corporate money to do so. In retrospect, that is just plain abuse on that company.

What I am saying, is that West and Zampella were testing the waters, anyone get the term "you dont dump your current girlfriend, unless you have another lined up"? Exactly what West and Zamp. did, they just got caught, and now this whole court battle is the nasty moving out part...idiots.

In conclusion, I applaud them for going out on there own, but if its not them, but the company Infinity Ward itself, that is responsible for there success, then there in deep shit.

Thats what I meant....I am done!

Aaron Truehitt
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Psst.. Assuming..makes an *** out of me and you.

Let the Court of Law decide what really happened and whose in the wrong :)

David Crain
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I think the bigger question here is why have so many shooter franchises died at EA?