Why The Future Is Bright At Infinity Ward

By Jordan Douglas on April 25, 2010, 6:06PM EDT

Over the last couple of weeks, especially since the <a href="http://www.gamingunion.net/news/ex-call-of-duty-heads-form-new-games-studio--1428.html">announcement of Respawn Entertainment, a number of senior members of Infinity Ward have left the studio.  Notable resignations from the Modern Warfare development team include lead designer Todd Alderman, lead software engineer Frank Gigliotti, lead animator Mark Grigsby, lead character animator Paul Messerly, senior animator Bruce Ferriz, and programmer Jon Shiring - many of which have already joined Respawn.  This loss of talent is a good sign because it sends a strong message to Activision's executives that creative cannot be taken for granted without consequence.  Hopefully this experience will humble Activision and change the relationship between management and creative at the publisher for the better.

All of this comes after an interesting speech Activision's chief executive officer, Bobby Kotick, gave at the 2010 D.I.C.E. Summit in February.  During the speech, Kotick emphasized how important it is that executives respect the independent creative culture of studios.  He added, "The thing you realize is that creative, inspired people really do need to control their destiny. If you create a culture that values independent thought and fosters independent operation and lets independent talent control much of their destiny, you'll get great games."  Kotick also stated his belief that management getting in the way of creative can lead to monetary loses on future projects.  In light of the current situation at Infinity Ward, it seems Activision should practice what they preach.

Kotick isn't alone in his view that too much interference from management will result in poorer quality and financial performance.  Industry analyst Michael Patcher believes that the increased competition from the Infinity Ward split will negatively impact future Call of Duty sales.  "I think that it is likely that future [Call of Duty] games will sell fewer units than in the past, primarily due to increased competition from Respawn, DICE and EA games that will likely be in the same or similar genres," he said.  The negative consequences of Activision's actions will likely make the publisher less arrogant in dealing with their creative talent in the future.

The rising stars that remain at Infinity Ward stand to benefit a great deal from the West, Zampella debacle - not to say they wanted it to happen. Activision won't be eager to have a repeat of this situation any time soon, which will give the younger talents at Infinity Ward an opportunity to leave their mark on the franchise. Promoting these people to fill the voids left by the departed leaders could potentially reinvigorate the Modern Warfare franchise with fresh ideas. A humbled Activision will be more likely to let them see the light of day, which could be one of the bright spots in this evolving story.

The departures of key personnel from Infinity Ward are a good sign for consumers as well as developers because it shows that developers won't stand idly by if they are feeling taken advantage of.  Creative freedom allows developers to put out quality products which benefits everyone.  Activision's executives will no doubt be much wearier of interfering with their talent as a result of the mess the firing of Jason West and Vince Zampella has created.  Hopefully this experience will give Infinity Ward, and Activision's other development studios more room to experiment in the future.

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