Infinity Ward Vs Activision: The Battle For Creative Direction

Simmering problems between Activision and Modern Warfare 2 development studio Infinity Ward - involving the creative direction of the Call of Duty series - may have come to a head with yesterday's dismissal of IW's two studio heads.

The reasons for the dismissal of Jason West and Vince Zampella, the top two men at Infinity Ward remain murky a day after the news broke that there was a shake-up at the Activision-owned studio. The publisher, in a financial filing, only vaguely referred to "insubordination" and "breach of contract".

But in the past 24 hours the long-rumoured problems between Activison and IW have come a little more clearly to light. A source familiar with the studio told Kotaku that Infinity Ward has long bristled at the notion of any studio other than IW making a Call of Duty game. The studio heads' renewed 2009 contract with Activision affirmed that only Infinity Ward would be allowed to make Call of Duty games set in the modern era, according to the source.

Infinity Ward's two most recent games were 2007's Call of Duty IV: Modern Warfare and 2009's Modern Warfare 2. In between, Activision-owned Treyarch developed Call of Duty: World At War and is expected to making 2010's Call of Duty, keeping with Activision's annual Call of Duty cycle. Infinity Ward, according to conversations Kotaku has had with employees at the studio in the past, is a one-game studio and one committed to two-year cycles. For IW, making a Call of Duty annually would not have been consistent with the studio's current structure. (Tensions between the studios flared up in public online close to the release of World at War.)

Kotaku has continued to hear from sources that Infinity Ward wanted to make either a new intellectual property or a game set in the future - the two projects might be one and the same - but that Activision resisted that.

Tensions between Infinity Ward and Activision had intensified in recent months to the point that IW would only deal with two employees from the publisher, according to Kotaku sources.

It's unclear if disagreements about creative direction are what finally led to West and Zampella's dismissal. But those disagreements appear to have contributed to the frailty of the relationship between publisher and studio that led to yesterday's breaking point.


    The question is: which company is whom in the picture above?

    Well you play with the devil and you get burned. Did they really expect Activision to roll over and play dead when IW decided they wanted to call the shots?

      Why a publisher want to continue to publish future games conceived by the developer of the most popular game in the world... oh, wait, what?

    Wait, why isn't it the other way around? Activision need to leave the picture, not IW.

      Because Activision owns Infinity Ward and the Call of Duty IP, that's why. It's their money, their game and they get to do what they like with it.

        This seems to be a much less amiable version of what happened between Bungie and Microsoft: Microsoft owns the rights to Halo, Bungie makes the games. Bungie want to go "indie" and Microsoft puts 343 Industries together to continue working on the Halo IP.

        It seems as though the above transition was somewhat frictionless. This IW/Activision situation just seems to be getting ugly from the get-go.

          Nice comparison

    It was good while it lasted bye bye Call of Duty....

    Activision = Shadow Company.
    Bobby Kotick = General Shepherd

    Vince Zampella = Price
    Jason West = Soap.


      haha awesome!

    IW need to go work for Hideo Kojima.. they would make the best games in the world together.

    Craft + story mixed well..

    Iw fail at story but are good at storyTELLING... Hideo Kojima is a master at story but fails at StoryTELLING.. (to the west at least).

    seriously go do that its the first thing i thought of when i played modernwarfare was..

    Why arnt these guys working for Kojima.

      First thing I thought was how much money are EA going to throw at them to come accross and bring some of their old people with them?

        EA doesn't need them

          Sure... but for a chance to put the screws to Activision?

          I miss the old Activison, from the MechWarrior 2 days.

    Heres a genius idea.

    Get a cash cow company that is able to pump out sure fire hits with regularity. Now completely screw with the employees hoping not to upset the mojo that helps a company make those sure fire hits.

    This is good news IMO. MW2 isnt the best CoD ever made and i can only assume this is due to Activision. So the possibility of these guys having there own creative freedom is good news... Just make a shooter with no Perks and no Kill Streaks please!!!

      It is definately Activisions doing. they are not interested in good games, just good selling games, ie. money money money. they got greedy and went for broke on MW2 and dumbed it down to target the casual crowd after nintendo proved that market is way larger than the enthusiast market. Activision are not a gamers company, they are a shareholders company.

    I hate Activision... it's companies like them that are killing the creativity in games. I remember reading a while back about how they nearly rejected the first Modern Warfare, like it was some kind of obscure indie game that no one would touch. Now they won't let IW stray from it. It seems to me (and I'm reading heavily between the lines here) IW realises that there are going to be a flood of "modern war" games, like there was a flood of WWII games (thanks for that too, Activision) and they want to do something to stand out from the crowd. They have such little creative freedom, it kind of makes me wonder what other revolutionary ideas Activision has turned down in favour of something that is 100% financially risk free. The man is now killing games like he killed music and film.

    Battlefield bad company is pretty darn good. They got my money instead (back when it was $49US on steam).

    Poor form activision. That is not taking care of your valuable employees. People are greater than produce

      Feh. Valuable employee's? After the way they treated us PC gamers, fuck 'em off I say.

    I'm looking around on facebook for a sizable anti-Activision group/fan page, but can't find any..I'm astounded that one doesn't exist, when they do things like this, the views of the community need to be heard/voiced..maybe they were forced to close them by Activision suits? Someone should create one.

    What a mess.
    Although Activision are taking things a little too far - IW do need to pull their heads from their asses.
    Their ego, by no means, is allowed to be as huge as they think it is.

    Got all bitchy with Treyarch cause World at War actually turned out to be a decent game.

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