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Activision: 'We Treat Our Developers Extremely Well,' Call of Duty Dev Infinity Ward Restructuring

by Alice O'Connor, Apr 19, 2010 9:00am PDT

"We treat our developers extremely well," Activision chief operating officer Thomas Tippl has told the Los Angeles Times in the wake of numerous key personnel quitting Call of Duty creator Infinity Ward, which the video games leviathan owns.

We treat our developers extremely well. We have an independent studio model that provides them a lot of creative freedom while we take care of the back office stuff so they can focus on making games. 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.

This was apparently insufficient for Infinity Ward co-founders Vince Zampella and Jason West who were fired in March, supposedly after Activision discovered they were planning to found a new studio. West and Zampella have since created Respawn Entertainment and signed a publishing deal with EA Partners, a move which they stress will allow them to control their own intellectual property. The pair have also sued Activision for control of the ridiculously profitable Modern Warfare franchise, which began at Infinity Ward.

Activision has counter-sued West and Zampella, accusing them of creating "an unlawful pattern and practice of conduct that was designed to steal the [Infinity Ward] studio, which is one of Activision's most valuable assets -- at the expense of Activision and its shareholders and for their own personal financial gain" while shopping a new intellectual property to other publishers.

Activision is unsurprisingly unwilling to give up on its cash cow, Tippl reveals, and is "currently in the process of configuring the new leadership team" at Infinity Ward, with Activision's chief technology officer Steve Pearce and head of production Steve Ackrich serving as interim senior executives while they "recruit talent from the outside."

Tippl optimistically says that the departures will "provide an opportunity for some of the rising stars to put their own stamp on the Call of Duty franchise" at Infinity Ward.

At present, Activision is known to have three new Call of Duty-branded games in the works. The first, handled by Call of Duty: World at War developer Treyarch, is due out in late 2010 and reported set in the Vietnam era. The second, Modern Warfare 3, is in the works at Infinity Ward while the third, a third-person action-adventure from Sledgehammer Games, is meant to "further broaden the audience for Call of Duty."

While none of the recent Infinity Ward quitters have publicly explained the reasons behind their departure, it's expected that a number of them will join Respawn.





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