Infinity Ward offices under siege? (UPDATED)

Modern Warfare 2 developer Infinity Ward is the centre of attention this evening, as we learn that a “bunch of bouncer-types” has arrived at the offices unannounced. On top of that, there are reports that studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella are “missing”, after a meeting with Activision this morning.

According to a source speaking with G4tv, “Everyone is on edge” at the studios – going on to explain that the relationship between IW and the publisher has recently been “tense”.

The end result of all of this is that Jason West and Vince Zampella are no longer with the company, but Infinity Ward are still central to the Call of Duty franchise.
Read more: Fall of Duty.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

We just wanna make our games.

“We just wanna make our games,” the source continued.

Understandably, Infinity Ward employees are “freaked out” and “confused” – when questioned, the non-uniformed ‘bouncers’ didn’t offer any explanation for their presence.

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a publicity stunt, but it has a certain ring of truth to it. Our contact at Activision is as confused as we are, as this story continues to unfold in Encino, California.

While rumours are – predictably – flying thick and fast, industry insiders have commented on “ominous” similarities between this situation and events which took place at other studios, shortly before they were closed down. Then, of course, there’s the argument that this is all a big hoax, designed to distract gamers from either tonight’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2 launch, or from the technical dramas recently facing the PS3.

Update: Trying to scrounge up any information on what might be going on, we noticed that the “staff” twitter list belonging to @infinityward has been removed in the half hour or so since we first loaded it.

Update 2: Activision Social Media Manager, Dan Amrich has explained that he doesn’t know what’s going on either.

Update 3: Infinity Ward creative strategist Robert Bowling (fourzerotwo) has commented via Twitter that the “phone currently will not stop ringing”.

Update 3.5: …he continues, explaining that while he enjoys hearing his ringtone a lot, he has no info.

Update 4: Joystiq’s Kevin Kelly has apparently driven to the Encino studio, where the security guard “had no idea what (he) was referring to”. Curiouser and curiouser.

Jason West's Facebook

An alleged screenshot of Jason West's Facebook

Update 5: President / Game Director at IW, Jason West, has just updated his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to reflect that he is, apparently, no longer with the company as of March 2010.

Update 6: IW staff members are still keeping quiet on Twitter, except for one very eloquent post: “Oooohhhhhhhhhhh crap” …doesn’t bode well. George Broussard from 3D Realms is also getting in on the action, wondering if this is perhaps “Bungie 2.0, following Jason West’s departure.

Update 7: Finally, we may be onto the truth, or something close to it. In an SEC filing made earlier today, Activision referred to an internal human resources inquiry into “breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward” – with the end result expected to include litigation as well as “the departure of key personnel”. At this stage, it looks like one of those senior employees is CTO Jason West, but it’s not been revealed whether Vince Zampella is the other party.

In case you were concerned:

“At present, the Company does not expect this matter to have a material impact on the Company.”

We’re not expecting much to develop on this story overnight in LA, but we’ll keep an eye out and let you know of any further discoveries.

(Actually, one last thing. Double Fine’s Tim Schaefer has chimed in on the situation, after his own clash with the publisher…

“Getting mad at Activision for this kind of thing is like getting mad at an ape for throwing feces. It’s just how the beast communicates.”

…well put, sir.)

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