Activision and Infinity Ward Feud Had History

Activision and Infinity Ward Feud Had History

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Infinity Ward's failure to deliver a live demo for E3 2009 might have sparked the feud.

The trial hasn't officially started yet, but that hasn't stopped evidence from entering the public awareness. The L.A. Times acquired copies of emails sent between Activision executives and, based on the contents, the massive game publisher looks even worse in its dispute with Jason West and Vince Zampella. The two heads of Infinity Ward drew ire from Activision when the studio didn't deliver a live demo for Microsoft's E3 press conference in 2009. When called about the delay, West and Zampella reportedly hung up on Activision's head of publishing at the time, Mike Griffith. The executives go on to discuss removing the pair while worrying about the PR backlash, as well as possibly allowing Treyarch to finish work on Modern Warfare 2.

Activision had a deal with Microsoft to contribute a live playable demo of MW2 to the press conference in 2009, but the code wasn't ready to show. West and Zampella were unapologetic, and Activision CEO Bobby Kotick didn't react well.

"They hung up on me," wrote Griffith, to which Bobby Kotick responded, "If they really did I would change their locks and lock them out of their building."

Of course, that's exactly what Kotick did less than six months after Modern Warfare 2 sold 7 million copies in one day. It seems Kotick took Griffith's advice to "get a gold master" of the game before any move was made against West and Zampella.

That's because the Activision executives knew they were in a bind. They had a bad working relationship with Infinity Ward, but the game needed to get made. Although they put forth the idea to let the other Call of Duty studio Treyarch finish the game, they were worried Treyarch could pull it off in time.

"We should also discuss what the plan B is going to look like," wrote another executive Dave Stohl. "There still could be a ton of risk getting the project done depending on how the team [at Infinity Ward] takes it. Treyarch taking it over now is also an option, but scary given the tight timeline.

"Is everyone ready for the big, negative PR story this is going to turn into if we kick them out?" Stohl added in a reply. It's "freaking me out a little."

Kotick and his cronies tried to execute plans to keep the top 20 employees at Infinity Ward happy by offering a "retention plan" of more money. "This would be an equity-based award for the top 12 team members ex Vince and Jason to help ensure we retain the team if things blow up at the top. As you know, this has been a difficult relationship," said Griffith in an email dated June 17, 2009.

The plan didn't work. Most of the top Infinity Ward staff members jumped ship to join the new studio Respawn after West and Zampella were forced out.

All these emails are crucial to pointing out that Activision wanted West and Zampella gone way before Modern Warfare 2 shipped in November 2009. In addition to IT people admitting they were asked to "dig up dirt" to find grounds to fire the Infinity Ward heads in "Operation Icebreaker", and it looks like Activision will end up paying out the royalties West and Zampella are due based on the termination of their contract.

We'll find out more when the trial begins on May 29th.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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Oh look, more proof (as if we needed any) that E3 (not to mention Activision) causes more harm to the industry than good. Hey Escapist, how about you man up for a change and refuse to cover the circle-jerk that is E3 this year?

I remember that E3 press conference. I'm pretty sure there was a demo of MW2. Jason west was playing MW2, starting with the Ice Ax portion of the game. Was that not a live demo, but just a recording of the game footage and the IW guy just miming the controller action?

Everytime I see Activision in the title of something I let out an audible sigh. Why can't they just go into a corner and die.

You know what this is probably good press for Activision since it's gotten to the point where any press is good press for them.

The sleaze continues for Acti.

So wait wait. Why is Activision the bad guy in this scenario? Infinity Ward knew that were supposed to have a workin demo for E3. When they didn't they hung up on their bosses when they called to bring up the fact that they completely failed at meetin that demand.

If any of you straight up hang up on on your boss when you fail to meet expectations, how would they react to you?

This blind hate towards Activision is really idiotic.

well in this case i think it's both sides being stupid, activision should have used that failure as leverage rather than a burn the bridges moment, and those two just dropped the ball and the call :P

given the circumstances they could have easily cheated them out of pay on entirely reasonable sounding grounds without shooting their pr in the foot

Sounds more and more like both sides have behaved badly. But yeah hanging up on your bosses after they call you about a missed deadline is just bad form. Surprised they did not boot them right there.

I am fairly surprised this sort of thing is not getting more attention from the Escapist community. Usually we rally around events such as these. In any case, something seems amiss. I have to believe that there is information missing. Otherwise, I must assume that West and Zampella are naive, irresponsible, and antagonistic in their evasiveness. Simultaneously, I must treat Activision as a monolithic, diabolical, and draconian madhouse for believing operation ice-breaker was a good idea, or thinking that it was a viable option to leave loose ends (like pay) lying around upon the firing of two head developers.

dietpeachsnapple:
I am fairly surprised this sort of thing is not getting more attention from the Escapist community. Usually we rally around events such as these. In any case, something seems amiss. I have to believe that there is information missing. Otherwise, I must assume that West and Zampella are naive, irresponsible, and antagonistic in their evasiveness. Simultaneously, I must treat Activision as a monolithic, diabolical, and draconian madhouse for believing operation ice-breaker was a good idea, or thinking that it was a viable option to leave loose ends (like pay) lying around upon the firing of two head developers.

Sadly, I think most people are expressing their outrage by playing Modern Warfare. 8/
Although given the 360 chart toppers of late, perhaps it's Minecraft!

Either way, yea, this is pretty deplorable all around.

For all the hate EA gets, the worst thing you can say about them is they bumble and fumble around with their studios like drunken idiots.

I certainly won't defend hanging up on your boss, but for realz, Acti is a bunch of frelling demonic frelniks. They've earned this rep & then some:
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