Update: Here's the trailer, which is sure to blast the sleep from your eyes with fast-cut camera work, ominous music, and loud explosions. Sorry Starbucks, your services won't be needed today. Better still, it actually looks quite good, if you ask us. The game appears to be set in modern times, as well, which is a bit unexpected considering the connotations that go along with a potential Vietnam setting. Enough from us, though. Go see for yourself.
Original Article: While Activision scrambles to pick up the pieces from Infinity Ward’s slow-motion explosion, Treyarch’s picking up the slack. As was rumored, the latest entry in the ridiculously popular shooter series will be subtitled “Black Ops.” Videogame publishers who are not Activision, take note: Black Ops is launching on November 9. You can go ahead and delay your games now. We’ll wait.
Problem is, that’s all we actually know about the game right now. Fortunately, the debut trailer is dropping later tonight, so we’ll be sure to update this post as soon as it happens. For now, though, we’ve got some not-quite-concrete info in UK retailer GAME’s near-confirmation that the game will be set in Vietnam, Cuba, and the Arctic – among other locations. But that information has since been pulled.
So yeah. Keep an eye on this space. Huh? What about the other eye? Well we just assumed that you were a normal human whose eyes worked in tandem. What kind of weird alien are you, anyway? Geez, Call of Duty really does have a lot of fans, doesn’t it?
“Continued defections from their Infinity Ward studio have created meaningful uncertainty around the future of their Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise," Hickey said.
"We expect Infinity Ward studio will be essentially closed after their next map pack release, with development work on Modern Warfare 3 spread between two studios not historically tied to the franchise.”
As of last count, more than 30 employees have departed from Infinity Ward within the last month or so – many of whom resurfaced at former IW heads Jason West and Vince Zampella’s Respawn Entertainment a short while later.
Thus far, there’s been nothing but radio silence as far as the next Modern Warfare 2 map pack goes. It is, however, in the works, according to Activision.
So, for now, Infinity Ward soldiers on. With the developer beheaded and rapidly bleeding employees, though, we're not sure scrambling for cover and waiting a few seconds for the strawberry jelly to disappear from their screen is going to work this time.
The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series has earned Activision a lot of money, and now a beef with the game's developers might end up costing the publisher up to $125 million. That's the higher end of what more than three dozen former and current employees of Infinity Ward, the development studio behind CoD:MW, are suing Activision for, claiming the publisher owes them anywhere from $75 million to $125 million in unpaid royalties, and maybe more if damages get factored in.
Activision's legal troubles began when, a little over a month ago, Activision fired Infinity Ward's two main guys, Jason West and Vince Zampella, who subsequently filed a $36 million lawsuit claiming unpaid royalties. West and Zampella went on to form their own studio called Respawn Entertainment and signing a deal with Electronic Arts. Since then, other employees have left Infinity Ward, some of them to join Respawn Entertainment.
The lawsuit alleges that Activision withheld royalty payments in an attempt to prevent the max exodus that has taken place. There are 38 employees represented in the lawsuit, 21 of them former employees of Infinity Ward, while 17 still work there.
"Activision engaged in this inappropriate course of conduct in an attempt to force employees of Infinity Ward to continue to work at a job that many of them did not want just so Activision could force them to complete the development, production and delivery of Modern Warfare 3," the suit says.
Naturally, Activision sees things another way and claims "the action is without merit." According to Activision, the publisher has every right to determine the amount and schedule of bonus payments for CoD:MW "and has acted consistent with its rights and the law at all times."
Maybe so, maybe not, but either way, this one's headed to court.
When Infinity Ward's Jason West and Vince Zampella left Activision / Infinity Ward, many of us wondered, just how bad could things possibly be? Well if you believe Activision's side of the story "We treat our developers extremely well" said COO Thomas Tippl.
"If their games are successful, they are compensated better here than anywhere else. We've been paying our talent millions of dollars for their work. Our setup provides a win-win opportunity. We ensure your work will reach a wide audience. Therefore, we have attracted, and we will continue to attract the top talent in this industry."
If getting paid millions of dollars could be considered "being treated extremely well", then I guess they have a point. But that doesn't explain why the Infinity Ward's quit count is up to 10, with many of those rumored to be moving over to an EA backed competitor called Respawn Entertainment.
It will be interesting to see just how many end up jumping off the Modern Warfare bandwagon in the coming months, and if it ends up creating a viable competitor for the Call of Duty series. After all, Palm is made up of ex-Apple employees who never managed to launch an iPhone killer.
So is it talent, circumstance, or both that make a game great?
As they sometimes do, another “inside source” has decided to don their feature-obscuring trench coat, find a spot in the corner of a parking garage where the shadows cover their face just so, and make with the blabbing. The topic? Call of Duty 7, which will apparently be known as Call of Duty: Black Ops.
The most shocking revelation to emerge from this leak in Activision’s patented Info Pipes comes in the form of a change to the traditional Call of Duty format. Instead of sticking with one time period, Black Ops is set to weave its yarn through multiple battles that fall under the umbrella of “recent history” -- with locales like WWII, Cuba, South America, an Iranian embassy in London, and the present day being explicitly mentioned.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to strike before the zombie bubble inevitably bursts, Treyarch’s reprising its ever-popular Nazi Zombies multiplayer mode. Unfortunately for the Nazi Zombies – who, based on their fortuitous mix of controversial political affiliation and undeadness, seem to want attention more than anything else – they’re only an appetizer for the real meat of the multiplayer news: dedicated servers.
Yep. Seems Activision learned its lesson after finding itself physically unable to dispose of angry letters from PC gamers faster than they arrived. Also, we have to imagine a bit of competition from a certain other multiplayer shooter franchise didn’t hurt.
Granted, this is all unconfirmed, and as such, should be taken with a grain of salt. Still though, if it’s true, color us interested. Treyarch may not have Infinity Ward’s near-flawless shooter pedigree (though, then again, Infinity Ward might not have it anymore, either), but Treyarch’s ambition can’t be denied. Here’s hoping we get an official announcement sooner rather than later, which is likely, since the game's apparently launching in November 2010.
Well, we suppose it was inevitable. After being handed their walking papers earlier this week, former Infinity Ward bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella have rallied their lawyers for what promises to be the court equivalent of a train wreck colliding with the last two Matrix movies and the remnants of M. Night Shyamalan’s movie career.
“We were shocked by Activision’s decision to terminate our contract,” said West. “We poured our heart and soul into that company, building not only a world class development studio, but assembling a team we’ve been proud to work with for nearly a decade. We think the work we’ve done speaks for itself.”
“After all we have given to Activision, we shouldn’t have to sue to get paid,” Zampella added.
And boy, are they trying to get paid. The duo hopes to come away from the suit with “at least $36 million” in addition to full rights to the Modern Warfare brand.
Activision, meanwhile, has dismissed the lawsuit as “meritless.”
“Activision is disappointed that Mr. Zampella and Mr. West have chosen to file a lawsuit, and believes their claims are meritless. Over eight years, Activision shareholders provided these executives with the capital they needed to start Infinity Ward, as well as the financial support, resources and creative independence that helped them flourish and achieve enormous professional success and personal wealth,” said a statement from the publisher.
Modern Warfare 3 who? Looks like World War 3’s going to be waged in a courtroom. Grab some popcorn, folks. It’s time for fireworks.
Yesterday, we brought you word of a rapidly escalating quarrel between Modern Warfare 2 developer Infinity Ward and publisher Activision that culminated in the firings of two Infinity Ward bosses. On one side of the spat, there was Activision -- playing the part of the dejected parent who was forced to administer some tough love to its “insubordinate” child. Meanwhile, Infinity Ward positioned itself on the receiving end of Activision’s volley, claiming to be “confused” and “freaked out.”
Were Activision’s seemingly shady actions warranted, though? And is Infinity Ward really the innocent little lamb to Activision’s money-hungry wolf? A few analysts gave their two cents on the situation.
First up, speaking with GamePro, videogame industry legal expert Tom Buscaglia took Activision to task for what he believes to be an underhanded “last resort.”
"I did employment law for 20 years," he said. "In my experience, insubordination is a justification of last resort because it's completely subjective. If I see that [in a wrongful termination lawsuit], it's usually complete bullshit."
"In any game, somebody has to be the keeper of the vision," Buscaglia said, speaking of former IW bosses Zampella and West. "So now [Activision’s] killed the goose, but they have a golden egg."
However, Infinity Ward may not have been playing entirely by the rules either. Speaking with Joystiq, analysts Michael Pachter and Jesse Divnich pointed out that Activision’s rumored refusal to fork over IW’s royalty fees was far from abnormal.
"I couldn't speak to what the royalty agreement between Activision and Infinity Ward is,” Divnich said. “If royalties haven't been paid out yet, I wouldn't consider that too alarming. The game has only been out for a little over 90 days. Additionally, it is common to see royalty agreements based upon factors such as hitting release date, review scores (a.k.a. 'Metacritic Clauses') or revenue milestones. I think if you just replace the word 'royalties' with 'bonus' it should make some more sense."
So there you go: a couple more threads for an already extremely tangled web. Oh well. Closure’s overrated anyway, right?
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.
Of all the crimes Activision could be accused of, extreme restraint isn’t one of them. If a property in its stable of games fattens its way into bonafide cash cow territory, you can bet that Activision will milk it bone-dry. But if you’ve ever tried chugging an entire gallon of milk, you know that people’s tolerance for the stuff is a bit lacking. Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero are already facing diminishing returns from consumer fatigue, and at this rate, it won’t be long before Call of Duty wears out its welcome – especially if yet another developer hops aboard Activision’s favorite money train.
The LA Times, however, is reporting just that. “Although Infinity Ward and Treyarch have produced sequels in alternating years since 2005, the publisher now has a third development studio working on future versions,” read the publication’s article on Modern Warfare 2’s launch.
As for this third mystery developer’s purpose, little is known. Speculation says that the series newcomer could be digging the development trenches on a Call of Duty MMO – something Activision boss Bobby Kotick has expressed interest in on multiple occasions. Or maybe Call of Duty: World at War’s ever-popular Nazi Zombies are finally getting their own game. We really have no idea.
Or – and this is crazy, but work with us here – maybe, after nearly a decade of working on the same series, Infinity Ward is ready to move on to greener pastures, and Activision’s called in a new team to pick up where the Call of Duty creator left off. Naaaaah.
Surprising absolutely no one on the entire planet -- since damn near all of humanity was counting down the milliseconds until the game was clasped between their grubby mitts – Modern Warfare 2 now officially holds the record for biggest launch in entertainment history. We’re not just talking games, either. Books, movies, and music – none of them stood a chance against Activision’s not-so-secret weapon.
Last year, Grand Theft Auto IV stole the show, moving 3.6 million units and raking in $310 million – all after a mere 24 hours. Modern Warfare 2 also lured $310 million from the safety of gamers’ wallets, but sold 4.7 million units. On top of that, Modern Warfare 2’s day-one sales came only from the US, Canada, and UK. GTA IV’s numbers, meanwhile, stem from a worldwide launch. Thus, all things considered, it’s a photo finish, with Modern Warfare 2 sporting slightly longer legs.
So, on a completely unrelated topic, what’s everyone playing this weekend?