On the heels of a first quarter that roundly beat expectations, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick spoke out directly on the conflicts surrounding Infinity Ward and the Call of Duty brand, painting the firing of co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella as a move he had no choice but to make.
"The decision to terminate the two executives was not done lightly, and was not done to deprive them of their bonuses," Kotick said on the company's call to investors, addressing the pair's legal suit without once identifying West and Zampella by name.
"Nor was it done without a great deal of deliberation about the consequences," he stressed. "We felt we had no choice but to terminate the Infinity Ward executives. We did this to protect the company's assets and the interest of our shareholders."
According to Kotick, the personal betrayal was difficult as the business decision. "I personally considered [West and Zampella] friends," he said. "Their conduct was a compromise of our friendship, which was equally disappointing."
Nonetheless, although more facts of the dispute will further surface as the legal cases proceed, Kotick was insistent that "there was no gray area."
"There was nothing that would have allowed us to retain their services, as talented as they might have been." Alluding heavily to ethics and the company's code of conduct, Kotick said Activision "chose the difficult right rather than the easier wrong" when it fired the pair.
As for the Call of Duty brand as a whole, Kotick emphasized it still has 325 employees among three studios -- Treyarch, Sledgehammer, and Infinity Ward -- at work on it, a position he calls a "coveted opportunity" for any game developer.
As for what remains of Infinity Ward, Kotick conceded that a total 35 employees have left the studio since the firings of Jason West and Vince Zampella -- "and it is likely that a few more people will leave as well," he added.
The studio remains "an incredibly well-respected group who are motivated and obviously extraordinarily capable," he said. Activision is "obviously disappointed" by the departures, he continued, "and we wish we could have convinced some of these incredibly talented people to stay," he said.
Infinity Ward is re-hiring, Kotick says, and the team continues to work on Modern Warfare 2 DLC and the studio's upcoming, unannounced project.
"Despite the frustrations... we remain the top destination for development talent in the video game industry," Kotick concluded.