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Released e-mails show Activision preparing for Infinity Ward fallout

Newly released e-mail exchanges among Activision executives show the tensions in the days and weeks leading to the company's firing of Jason West and Vince Zampella.

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The legal battle between Activision and Infinity Ward is coming to a head, and newly released court documents are giving us a better look at Activision's internal dialogue in the days leading up to firing Jason West and Vince Zampella. The e-mails range from frustrations, to plans of how to keep projects and teams on-track without the known leadership.

Court documents published by the LA Times show conversations between CEO Bobby Kotick, and executives Dave Stohl, Mike Griffith, and Rob Kostich.

Tensions began to boil after Infinity Ward failed to get a gameplay demo of Modern Warfare 2 ready for Microsoft's E3 press conference. "Msft [Microsoft] will go ballistic over this and the deal is seriously risked," Kostich wrote in one email. Griffith, who was president of publishing at the time, called West and Zampella and said they hung up on him. Kotick replied, "If they really did I would change their locks and lock them out of their building."

Griffith then suggested that Treyarch could take it over, but says that option is "scary given the tight timeline." Plus, Stohl said the group should "discuss what the plan B is going to look like" since "there could be a ton of risk getting the project done depending on how the team takes it."

And in a moment of truth in hindsight, Stohl also said, "Is everyone ready for the big, negative PR story this is going to turn into if we kick them out? [It's] freaking me out a little."

Activision had also set in motion a retention plan for the top 12 team members, besides West and Zampella. This was to "help ensure we retain the team if things blow up at the top," according to Griffith.

The company recently settled its suit against Electronic Arts, and paid a hefty non-settlement sum to the Infinity Ward Employee Group. All indications are that it's clearing the arena for the main event against West and Zampella, and these new e-mails show just how tense the situation was before the company fired the two former executives.

Editor-In-Chief

From The Chatty

  • reply
    May 22, 2012 8:30 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Released e-mails show Activision preparing for Infinity Ward fallout.

    Newly released e-mail exchanges among Activision executives show the tensions in the days and weeks leading to the company's firing of Jason West and Vince Zampella.

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      May 22, 2012 8:37 AM

      I thought they had a demo at E3. They showed the snow level. Was that another conference?

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        May 22, 2012 8:49 AM

        I don't think it was playable. Maybe that's the difference? It was just a video of gameplay not a real demo. Although that was like five years ago.

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          May 22, 2012 8:58 AM

          It was a live demo of a chunk of Cliffhanger.

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      May 22, 2012 8:54 AM

      "The legal battle between Activision and Infinity Ward"

      As the article it self goes on to note, the legal battle isn't between Activision and Infinity Ward(companies don't have a habit of suing wholly owned subsidiaries) but between Activision and a group of former Infinity Ward employees.

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      May 22, 2012 9:00 AM

      Might want to point out that there's a lot of detail on Bungie's future in there too. "Destiny" Is the code-name for their new title for release in 2013: http://www.giantbomb.com/news/activision-lawsuit-has-details-on-bungies-next-game/4165/

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        May 22, 2012 9:02 AM

        Also, why publishers suck:
        Bungie would be entitled to royalties ranging from 20% to 35% of "operating income," the amount left over after Activision deducts its costs, including development, production and marketing expenses.

        Under the contract, which may have been amended since it went into effect on April 16, 2010, Activision would also pay Bungie $2.5 million a year in bonuses between 2010 and 2013 if the Bellevue, Wash., studio meets certain quality and budget milestones. Bungie gets another $2.5 million if the first Destiny game achieves a score of 90 or better out of 100 on GameRankings.com, a site that summarizes reviews by game critics.

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          May 22, 2012 9:20 AM

          pretty bad deal locking them for 10 years and such controlling terms, while they own the studio and the IPs

          But on the other side, it's Activision that funds the games, that's why the royalties are small, still Bungie can't make a lot time on independent projects and those will have to be funded by them.

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            May 22, 2012 10:18 AM

            Bungie, with the Bungie name, probably could make a lot, really. They just need to valve it up already and go self funded. They've been absurdly successful, they just need to roll with that instead of always being on the dole from publishers.

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              May 22, 2012 10:57 AM

              Well with their Activision deal they get to keep the IP. So that is a HUGE plus.

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          May 22, 2012 11:09 AM

          Bungie could make $400 million from this deal. How is this a bad deal?

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          May 22, 2012 11:20 AM

          Its not like Bungie didn't agree to those terms......

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            May 22, 2012 11:47 AM

            It's not my concern for Bungie's sake. It's more like, I'd like a lot more of my money to go to Bungie than to Activision.

            I wish I could indie bundle the price so that I could fund Activision 10% and all the rest to the developer.

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              May 22, 2012 6:15 PM

              You do realize what traditional game publishing consists of right? That Activision is fronting(nearly) all of the development, marketing, and distribution costs associated with the project and thus assuming all of the risk?

              Bungie (and any developer operating under this model) gets paid on a routine basis during the course of development assuming they meet the stipulations of their contract. Activision takes a 3+ year bet that the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars they sunk into the project are recouped when the finished game finally starts generating revenue.

              I don't see any problem with publishers being made whole before developers see additional revenue from the sales of their game. If the 25-30% royalty figure is accurate, Bungie is getting a good deal indeed.

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      May 22, 2012 9:27 AM

      Suck balls Activision! You can bet they are the ones behind Diablo 3's always online DRM; you know, the game that just got majorly hacked in spite of it?

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        May 22, 2012 10:15 AM

        I for one didn't buy it for that very reason. And the real money auction house... I can't be the only one.

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          June 4, 2012 6:03 AM

          After I got okie-doked by StarCraft II and having to be online and logged in just to play my freaking single-player game, I decided that I would no longer buy any Blizzard games. Which is a shame because I used to really love Blizzard. So, as long as that bullshit system is still in place, there will be no Diablo III and no more SC II for me.

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        May 22, 2012 6:44 PM

        It may have gotten hacked but it still hasn't been cracked and pirated. I'd say pretty successful on their part.

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          June 4, 2012 6:18 AM

          Why? Because it's been a whole week? Are you fucking kidding me?

          They've lost customers (like me).

          People who have paid for the game have been unable to play it on a consistent basis (again, punishing your PAYING customers), any and every video game that has a single-player component should be 100% playable 100% of the time.

          90% of those who paid for the game still would have paid for the game if it wouldn't have had this DRM (which would still be a crap-ton of profit).

          That 10% that would have gotten a pirated copy would have been acceptable losses and would have been outweighed by them not losing customers and by showing their commitment to their fanbase buy not punishing a paying customer

          What about the potential customers who they've lost completely because they don't have a persistent high-speed internet connection?

          They're not stopping the game from being pirated, they are only delaying it.

          Believe it or not, a percentage of those pirates who WILL eventually be playing this game free of charge or with a cracked version would actually buy the game if it didn't contain such an oppressive and draconian DRM.

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      May 22, 2012 12:04 PM

      that some verry intersting information here.

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      May 22, 2012 1:05 PM

      Everyone acts like this shit doesn't go on with every publisher...