The Modern Warfare 2 developer has now suffered the loss of eleven high profile members in total ever since studio heads and founders Vince Zampella and Jason West were ousted from Infinity Ward. While Activision are claiming 'key talent' still remains at the studio, these losses would have to hurt.
Team members Bruce Ferriz (animator), Mackey McCandlish (lead designer), John Shiring (programmer), Todd Alderman (lead designer) and Francesco Gigliotti (lead software engineer) had already left the studio before the announcement (via Kotaku) that Steve Fukuda (lead designer), Zied Reike (lead designer), Rayme Vinson (programmer) and Chris Cherubini (lead artist) have now left as well. Also, with a new morning, comes a new announcement of departing Infinity Ward staff. Kotaku once again got the scoop and this time its the teams lead animator, Mark Grigsby, and lead character animator, Paul Messerly, who have left the studio. They take with them 13 years of experience and together the studio has suffered a loss of well over 60 years experience from the company, without including the loss of Zampella and West. No real details have been given as to why the members have left but so far most sources claim that they resigned of their own accord.
With such a huge loss of experience from the studio can we now expect to see Sledgehammer Games take a bigger role in the Call of Duty franchise? Could this be the kickstart that Infinity Ward needs? A rush of fresh blood into the studio to help the team potentially move on from Call of Duty or at least provide us with a new, refreshing experience? Unfortunately the signs aren't looking good with the latest departures, Grigsby and Messerly, sparking a comment from someone close to Infinity Ward that morale at the studio is low, like desperately low, and the lack of leadership is cited as a contributing factor.
The question of where these former members will end up is also a pretty big one at the moment and, more specifically, how many of those senior Infinity Ward members will join West and Zampella's new venture Respawn Entertainment? The two announced (via LA Times) the new company on the 12th of April. The company is set up under the EA Partners Program which will provide the studio with funding and retain exclusive distribution rights for Respawn created games. While West and Zampella are under the Partners Program, they still retain full creative control over any property they create. EA are also said to be backing the team in their hiring of a crew that will be able to create, what West calls a game of "huge, summer blockbuster" scale.
If they secure some of their former Infinity Ward colleagues then the studio would definitely be on the right track for creating a 'blockbuster' while probably helping EA to sleep a little better at night knowing they are backing a whole team of proven talent and not just West and Zampella. It's rare for a company to sign individuals to then create a studio, especially an unproven one.
It's interesting to see West and Zampella end up back under the wing of EA after Activision claimed this is the reason why the two were fired. Activision believe that West and Zampella held talks with EA while still under contract with Activision. Infact Activision released a statement (via Gamasutra) saying the deal "comes as no surprise" as they had already aired their suspicions over a link between EA and West/Zampella in their cross-complaint.
It looks like the fallout of the West/Zampella sacking continues to be felt. Infinity Ward has been gutted of much of its experience and founding members and potentially faces a rethink of its position while West and Zampella must surely be smiling about the prospect of being able to sign up some of their former work colleagues. Sitting in the background is the looming case management conference of West and Zampella v. Activision on the 21st of June 2010.Powered by Sidelines