Call of Duty is one of Activision’s most important franchises, but CEO Bobby Kotick had no problems deciding to fire two of the chief creatives behind its success.
Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella were let go in March 2010 following accusations ranging from insubordination to corporate espionage to fraud. In a profile piece in the New York Times, Kotick indicated he didn’t have to give the matter much thought.
“You find out two executives are planning to break their contracts, keep the money you gave them and steal 40 employees. What do you do? You fire them,” he said.
West and Zampella’s termination may have looked risky to some outsiders; Modern Warfare 2, the last Call of Duty game developed under their guidance, sold over 22 million copies and was one of the best-selling games of all time – until the next Call of Duty. Since the pair’s departure, the franchise has continued to sell phenomenally, with the Treyarch-developed Black Ops and and Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 breaking successive sales records.
West and Zampella now lead a new, EA-sponsored studio called Respawn, staffed by many former Infinity Ward employees. Its first game is expected to be revealed soon.
The Kotick profile has been much reported today, especially some of the more colourful parts, as when the CEO appeals to critics to stop PhotoShopping him as a devil because it makes it hard to get dates. There’s also a repudiation of claims that Kotick never plays games; you should probably read the whole thing.