The past 24 hours have not been kind to Modern Warfare 2 developer Infinity Ward.
It all began yesterday evening when rumors surfaced that Activision ordered security personnel to go check in on Infinity Ward in what we’re sure was a polite, completely non-threatening gesture. Infinity Ward employees were “freaked out” and “confused” by the nasty turn of events.
It only got uglier from there.
Apparently, Activision was investigating "breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward." These two senior employees were later identified as none other than the company’s heart and soul, respectively, bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella. Both men are now jobless.
Shortly after, in a move that seems a bit too convenient for our tastes, Activision announced the creation of a Call of Duty business unit, which will be headed-up by Philip Earl, who currently runs Activision Publishing’s Asia Pacific region. Meanwhile, Activision vets Steve Pearce and Steve Ackrich will take up the reigns over at Infinity Ward until suitable candidates are found to permanently steer the wagon. Again, fishy.
This came after Activision CEO Bobby Kotick flew in for an emergency meeting with Infinity Ward’s remaining staffers this afternoon.
So, what exactly caused this plate-flinging, staying-at-mother’s-house-for-a-month lover’s spat? Activision’s not talking, but the Internet’s made a valiant effort at putting together the pieces. For one thing, rumor has it that Activision’s been withholding royalty fees from Infinity Ward. Meanwhile, Infinity Ward's apparently been shopping around for a new publisher despite a deal with Activision that doesn't expire until October. And the developer's hoping to take the Modern Warfare franchise with it, as it's a partial owner of the Call of Duty franchise. Also, earlier this year Infinity Ward was rumored to have decided to focus on a new franchise instead of developing Modern Warfare 3 – a move that, we’re sure, had Activision’s piggy banks squealing in desperate fear of starvation.
But here’s the kicker: earlier today, after announcing a new action-adventure entry in the Call of Duty series developed by Sledgehammer Games, Activision said that Infinity Ward is still “central” to the Call of Duty franchise. An odd thing to say about a studio that hopes to develop a new IP. Now, maybe we’re reading into things a bit, but if your billion dollar horse was bucking, we bet you’d consider doing some fairly unscrupulous things to whip it back into line.
We wish the best of luck to everyone at Infinity Ward. Keep fighting the good fight, guys and gals.