Fired from Activision Blizzard’s Infinity Ward game studo, shotting game gurus Vince Zampella and Jason West have started Respawn Entertainment and are busy hiring their old colleagues.
Activision Blizzard shot itself in the foot in the way it handled the firing of the co-creators of its blockbuster franchise, Modern Warfare. And now a number of leaders on the Modern Warfare team at Infinity Ward have joined Respawn, which is based in Redwood City, Calif., and is financed by Activision Blizzard’s chief rival, Electronic Arts.
According to LinkedIn profile changes, the following Infinity Ward game developers have joined Respawn: Todd Alderman, former Infinity Ward lead designer who will have the same title at Respawn; former lead animator Mark Grisby; former lead environmental artist Chris Cherubini; former lead animator John Paul Messerly; former software engineer Rayme C. Vinson; programmer Jon Shiring; and former lead designer Mackey McCandlish. You can bet that there will be more Infinity Ward departures, even though Activision Blizzard is trying to entice them to stay with the bonuses that were originally supposed to go to West and Zampella.
Zampella and West have declined to say what their game will be about. They say they will hire a great team first and then collectively decide what they want to build. But it seems pretty likely that we’re in for a firefight in the modern combat shooting genre as the rivals take each other on. Activision Blizzard and the Respawn founders have sued each other. Activision Blizzard said that Zampella and West secretly conspired to start a new studio, hire away their old colleagues, and start a rival franchise, even while they were still employed by Activision Blizzard. The lawsuits will be a distraction. But EA is likely to the Respawn chief from the litigation, giving them freedom to work on games.
Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Morgan, believes that Activision Blizzard is likely to sell fewer future Infinity Ward games than in the past, thanks to increased competition from Respawn, as well as Electronic Arts’ DICE studio, which makes the Battlefield series of modern combat games. On the other hand, Pachter adds, “I don’t think that Infinity Ward will be devastated, given that they will likely retain three-quarters of their employees, and I think it is highly likely that future games based on the Modern Warfare brand will be successful…. And while I think that many consumers will be aware that the ‘creators’ of Call of Duty and Modern Warfare are no longer with Activision, the majority of consumers will either not know or will not care enough to shun future games.”
Companies: Activision Blizzard, electronic arts, Infinity Ward, Respawn Entertainment
People: Jason West, Vince Zampella