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.
As part of a restructuring plan that involves – among other, less heartbreaking things -- laying-off 1,500 employees, EA recently placed nearly all of Mercenaries developer Pandemic on the chopping block.
Studio founders Josh Resnick, Andrew Goldman, and Greg Borrud are leading the mass exodus, with roughly 200 former staffers in tow. Pandemic’s still-twitching remains will be moved to EA’s Los Angeles studio, where games under the Pandemic brand name will continue to be developed.
If it’s any consolation, though, the development community is doing a great job of making sure Pandemic’s fine folks land on their feet. Among others, Gearbox is inviting former Pandemic employees off the cold streets and into the perpetually warm state of Texas.
As always, we wish the best of luck to everyone affected by this unfortunate turn of events.
Funcom’s quite used to cutting things. After all, Conan and his loin-clothed cohorts typically sport more pointy weaponry than clothing. Even so, we can’t imagine the developer’s recent announcement that it’s axing jobs right and left was an easy one to make.
“Funcom N.V has initiated a program of cost reductions, reductions in head count and use of forced leave (permittering) to better align the Company's operations to the current marketplace. Around 20 % of the staff of the Company will be affected by headcount reductions or forced leave, mostly in the Company's Norwegian subsidiary,” read the announcement.
In addition, the developer’s next massively multiplayer opus, The Secret World, will remain a secret for a little while longer, as its development has been “extended some months.”
Best of luck to all those affected by the lay-offs. We hear those MMO-majiggers are all the rage with the kids these days, so hopefully, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
Mel Brooks may have coined the phrase “it’s good to be the king”, but that probably wasn’t what the president of Sony France was thinking when he was taken hostage by the angry employees at his soon to be closed Pontonx-sur-l'Adour tape manufacturing plant. Workers held Serge Foucher overnight before freeing him on Friday to take part in his meeting with head office officials to continue negotiating their severance package. “I am happy to be free and to see the light of day again” he told reporters as he climbed into a mini-bus with other union officials.
Sony press spokeswoman Delphine Viers said the situation was under control and the manager had been in contact with the local state security chief regularly throughout his captivity. "It's true that this might seem surprising abroad, but it's less surprising in France, where we're more used to this kind of situation," she said, adding that it was unlikely that the firm would make a criminal complaint.
The Pontonx-sur-l'Adour plant is slated to close April 17th, and has been producing video tapes for Sony since 1984. This isn’t the first time disgruntled workers have held bosses hostage in France, but I wouldn’t suggest trying it here. I’m not sure North American CEO’s would have the same level of patience.
The PC gaming market isn’t exactly known for clear skies and inviting waters, so one can only imagine that attempting to ford the ol’ river during these harsh economic times would likely result in an unceremonious game over. And so, we speculate, went Microsoft’s logic when it quietly told Games for Windows Live general manager Chris Early to take a hike.
When contacted by Venture Beat, Microsoft simply replied that Early’s time at the software company “has come to a close.” Apparently, he fell off the giant's back along with 1,400 other unfortunate employees.
Frankly, no matter how you look at this, things seem dicey for GFWL. If its head was deemed so non-essential as to be lopped off, you have to wonder how much longer its deaf, dumb, and blind stump of a body can continue to stumble through the buzzsaw forest that is Microsoft in its current state.
As always, we wish Early the best of luck (though technically, this is the second time we’ve done it) and hope he lands in a place where he’ll be able to more effectively pick off the buzzards that everyone seems to think are swarming PC gaming these days.
"Last November we launched what we hoped would be a ground breaking sci-fi MMO. In many ways, we think we've achieved that goal. Tabula Rasa has some unique features that make it fun and very different from every other MMO out there. Unfortunately, the fact is that the game hasn't performed as expected. The development team has worked hard to improve the game since launch, but the game never achieved the player population we hoped for."
"So it is with regret that we must announce that Tabula Rasa will end live service on February 28, 2009."
On the bright side, Tabula Rasa's subscription fee is bowing out before the game's final act, making the MMO free to play beginning January 10. But wait, the goodie bag runs deeper. Active players as of 10 A.M. PST Friday morning will also leave the funeral with:
3 free months of City of Heroes including digital client
3 free months of Lineage II including digital client
Aion beta access (coming soon)
Aion pre-order access (available in 2009)
1 free month of Aion including digital client (available in 2009)
Best of luck to employees affected by Tabula Rasa's untimely end. Job market be damned, you all have the talent to land firmly on your feet.
After EA dribbled its drop into the bucket, it was only a matter of time until other mega-publishers hopped in line. Proving the previous statement's veracity, here's THQ.
According to prettymucheveryone -- save for, of course, THQ -- the publisher plans to pack five studios onto the chopping block this week, bringing its total posse down from 16 studios to an economy sized 11.
The development studios being given the go ahead to stroll toward the light are Paradigm (Stuntman Ignition), Helixe, Locomotive, Sandblast Games and Mass Media.
Additionally, Juice Games (known for, uh, racing title Juiced) will remain open, but will lose roughly one third of its staff.
Our prayers are with those who find themselves unemployed. Good luck, everyone.
How cool would it be if you could tidy up your long-to-the-point-of-swaying-in-the-breeze toe nails and save $50 million? Because that's essentially what EA did today in the process of announcing its quarterly earnings.
Everyone's favorite 37.5% of the industry laid-off 600 employees -- a mere 6% of its workforce. Apparently, that'll save the company a whopping $50 million.
"These are challenging economic times around the world, and it's impossible for any business leaders to predict the future," said spokesperson Mariam Sughayer. "However, EA has made good progress in improving product quality, building a holiday lineup of titles that is extremely strong, filling our new IP pipeline, and expanding our Direct-To-Consumer and online businesses. As well, our talent remains the best in the industry."
If nothing else, Spore was a major success -- serving 2 million marginally happy customers over the course of three weeks.
Check out the full press release on EA's investors' site, if you'd like to overwrite your childhood memories with numbers. So many numbers.