Activision have officially responded to the Infinity Ward drama, with "new strategic plans" for the Call of Duty franchise. According to the publisher, Infinity Ward are still "central" to the future of the franchise - but it's not yet known in what capacity.
An internal memo reads:
"Infinity Ward remains central to Call of Duty's future and we rely on the combined talent, expertise and leadership of the team there for its success."
Whether this means we'll see Modern Warfare 3, created by the same team as its predecessors, or something else, is yet to be seen.
It's also been officially confirmed that studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella are "no longer with Infinity Ward", and that the company is now under interim management.
There are other significant changes afoot, such as the formation of a dedicated business unit, designed to bring together the various brand initiatives with "focused, dedicated resources" around the globe. To give you an idea of how seriously they're taking this, the Call of Duty brand will now be given the same focus as the Blizzard Entertainment business unit. Special attention will be paid to high-margin digital content, and the franchise will be consistently pushed to become the leading action entertainment brand in "new geographies, new genres and with new digital business models."
Mike Griffith, President and CEO of Activision Publishing explains:
"2010 will be another important year for the Call of Duty franchise.
"In addition to continued catalog sales, new downloadable content from Infinity Ward and a new Call of Duty release, we are excited about the opportunity to bring the franchise to new geographies, genres and players."
This year, we're already inline for a new Call of Duty release from Treyarch, and we've been reassured that Infinity Ward are also currently working hard on the first two downloadable map packs for Modern Warfare 2, also to be released in 2010.
2011 is when the fun starts, with newly-formed Activision developer Sledgehammer Games announced as working on another new game in the franchise - promising to extend the series into the "action-adventure" genre. As the company settles into a routine of annual releases, from what we can tell, this is not the next CoD game, but a bit of a side-project, taking things in a different direction. Interesting, no?
While the company might be new, the faces behind Sledgehammer have been around a while, with both Michael Condrey and Glen A. Schofield coming to the new developer off the back of their success with Dead Space.
Activision Publishing's current Asia Pacific head, Philip Earl, will be leading the new Call of Duty business unit, and we can confirm that industry vets Steve Ackrich (head of production) and Steve Pearce (chief technology officer) will be leading Infinity Ward on an interim basis, following Zampella and West's dramatic departure.
So now that we know roughly what has happened, we can only sit back and wait patiently to find out why it all unfolded like this. Rumours are still burbling around about what exactly was involved to prompt an insubordination claim, with some punters commenting that breach of copyright was involved also.
The strongest theory at this point is that the publisher wanted IW to work on a 'traditional' war game, while the developer wanted to take the franchise into the future even further than they had with Modern Warfare 2. Whether or not there's any truth to that matter is yet to be seen, but it seems entirely plausible.
UPDATE: Another argument is that while Modern Warfare 2 has earned Activision more than US$1billion in revenue, Infinity Ward allegedly have not seen any royalties for the game. This one sounds particularly sinister and keeps showing up around the place, but is yet to be officially confirmed. We'll keep an eye out.
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Jimmy the Geek