With the forced departures of Vince Zampella and Jason West from Infinity Ward, the future landscapes of both a franchise and a genre were shifted. Perhaps in a parallel universe this never happened, and Call of Duty 12: Modern Warfare In Space will be a riotous success. For those of us in this world, however, the schism resulted in the creation of Respawn Entertainment by the former heads of Infinity Ward.
The rift has widened further still — as of this week, 17 Infinity Ward employees have defected to Respawn Entertainment, including lead designer Todd Alderman, lead animators Mark Grisby and John Paul Messerly, lead environmental artist Chris Cherubini, software engineer Rayme C. Vinson, and programmer John Shiring. Thanks to social media, the former Infinity Ward employees revealed their new affiliations via twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
The (extremely) new company has already signed on to work with EA Games, though no word yet on what the project will be. All that’s known is Respawn Entertainment will be maintaining full creative control over whatever property they put together for EA.
Gaming research analyst Michael Pachter has weighed in on the subject, according to Joystiq, saying:
I think that it is likely that future games will sell fewer units in the past, primarily due to increased competition from Respawn, DICE and EA games that will likely be in the same or similar genres.
Some argue that the casual gamer is too uninformed or uninterested in developer politics and upheaval to radically change Modern Warfare‘s future sales, whereas others have cited Medal of Honor, another game Zampella and West worked on, as an instance of a game losing significant sales due to a creative team change affecting the quality of the game. When players expect one thing and are given another, the results are rarely positive.
Certainly pre-schism Infinity Ward was responsible for upping the first-person shooter game’s game, so to speak. Their innovative approach to perks has redefined the nature of the multiplayer experience. If they continue to maintain that level of ingenuity at Respawn, gamers will surely be drawn away from what is now but the pale ghost of a franchise, the hollowed out shell of something great.
Guess whose side of this I’m on.
Activision has said they’re looking to take Modern Warfare in a number of different directions, including an action/adventure game helmed by the creators of Dead Space. If this seems desperate and odd to you, well, I would agree. And as much as I’m hoping Respawn can take some of the wind out of Activision’s sales by providing a Call of Duty alternative, I’m more interested in seeing what’s next from Zampella, West and co. rather than seeing them recreate their past successes, just under a different title.