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EA signs West and Zampella's Respawn Entertainment

Ex-Infinity Ward duo form new independent studio and ink deal with EA Partners for future titles

Ex-Infinity Ward developers Jason West and Vince Zampella have announced the formation of a new independent development studio, Respawn Entertainment, and have signed a distribution agreement with EA Partners.

The duo were sacked from Activision's Call of Duty studio last month and are currently engaged in a bitter legal battle with their former employers.

The new team makes a point of stating that it will retain all the intellectual property it creates, one of the major sticking points in West and Zampella's legal row with Activision.

"Respawn Entertainment marks a fresh start for Jason and me," said Vince Zampella, general manager of of the new studio.

"For the past decade we led a great development team and poured our hearts into creating an epic game franchise. We're very proud of what we built - and proud that so many millions of fans enjoyed those games. Today we hope to do it all over again - open a new studio, hire a great team, and create brand new games with a new partner, EA."

West and Zampella are represented by Creative Artists Agency, and although full details are not disclosed, Respawn has indicated EA Partners will get the exclusive distribution rights to a number of future games from the team.

"This is the start of a great publishing partnership - one that I expect will develop blockbuster game franchises," added Frank Gibeau, President of the EA Games.

"Jason and Vince are two of the top creative leaders in the entertainment industry. At EA, we're honoured to be their partners and to give them the support they need to hire a team and return to making incredible games."

The developers were ousted from Infinity Ward last month for "insubordination", with Activision claiming that they had been discussing leaving the studio to set up with "Activision's closest competitor." West and Zampella are currently suing the publisher, after helping to establish the $3 billion Call of Duty franchise.

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Latest comments (25)

Jeff Wayne Technical Architect 6 years ago
Will be interesting to see if other IW staff move to this new studio. They are clearly a talented bunch of people.
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Charlie Andre-Barrett European Digital Sales Manager, Bethesda Softworks6 years ago
Clever move EA !! Good luck to Respawn Entertainment ( love that name !!)
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Alex Wright-Manning Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Datascope6 years ago
Apparently there is a contractual embargo on West and Zampella hiring any ex IW staff for three years. Whether it's enforceable during the court proceedings I'm not sure, but for Activision the danger of losing an entire studio - not to mention one of the most successful (and profitable) of all time, is very real indeed. This is indeed a very smart move by EA to take advantage of all of the press coverage and general ill feeling towards their biggest rival.
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Show all comments (25)
Patrick Williams Medicine and Research 6 years ago
I wonder if it would be possible for the ex-IW staff to form a separate company and for West and Zampella to "outsource" any work to them. Alternatively, this separate company could simply be called "EA".

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Patrick Williams on 12th April 2010 3:00pm

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Sander Stricker Product Manager Games, Sanoma Media6 years ago
Good thing that Respawn will keep all it's IP's, this way the same problem won't arise again in 4-5 years from now. I however wonder what Respawn will do if EA asks them to make a new Medal of Honor for 2011/2012?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sander Stricker on 12th April 2010 3:19pm

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Jamie Leece SVP Business Development, Behaviour6 years ago
I am sure Respawn will pass on doing a MOH sequel. Doesn't make sense for EA, doesn't make sense for Respawn. I am sure Respawn want to outperform COD, and keep the IP... doing an MOH first or at the same time doesn't achieve that goal...
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Thomas Grant Software / Game Developer 6 years ago
This announcement does add weight to Activision's claims that West and Zampella were holding up progress on MW3 and pushing Activision to sack them so they could set up shop with EA...infact this confirms it. I doubt West and Zampella will win thier suit against Activision after this

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Thomas Grant on 12th April 2010 3:36pm

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Perry Chen Studying Finance, Boston College6 years ago
Good luck to them. (Though, despite being a PC gamer and being irked by the lack of dedicated servers in MW2).
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
@ Thomas Grant

Irrespective of whether West & Zampella were meeting without EA and in doing so breaking their contractual terms, there's no reason why they couldn't set up this new company with EA in the weeks since they were sacked from IW; i.e. this "confirms" nothing.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
@ Terence & Thomas

I suspect it could be argued either way tbh. Activision would say it's evidence that there had been meetings previously, EA would simply say they saw an opportunity and went for it, and when it comes down to it it'll be the courts that decide. Like I said before, the whole thing is just going to become as messy as hell.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
Oh, one other thing. An employment lawyer can correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think if Activision are found to have acted improperly in sacking W&Z, then the latter's prohibition on employing staff from IW will fall away and so it's open season on Respawn poaching IW staff. But if Activision are found to have acted lawfully, then the prohibition on taking staff from IW will stay. Really has become a huge battle for Activision.

Interesting times.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 6 years ago
It will be even more interesting if the court rules in favour of W&Z having ownership of the Modern Warfare franchise, and Respawn's first game turns out to be MW3! (I realise how unlikely this is, but the irony of the situation would amuse me greatly).
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Jamie Leece SVP Business Development, Behaviour6 years ago
I agree that it doesn't mean anything that they signed with EA or CAA after the sacking... They are "free agents" as of the departure from Activision and anyone worth their salt would of jumped on them and it has happened. The particulars of an employment agreement on whether or not you can discuss opportunities or not is interesting. I have never seen that personally, but i suppose that is possible. However unless they have a "you can't talk to anyone" clause, then flying up to EA to talk about starting a gig in 12 months (end of current contract) is not outside of being reasonable. Connecting plans post 2011 with sabotage on MW3 is a stretch, but lawyers are known to try anything. The brand extension strategy and multi-developer approach that Activision has had with COD and other brands can not be seen as a golden path so W&Z challenging part or all of that strategy would not be unreasonable in my book.
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Pierre Vandenbroucke Assistant de production, Gorgone Productions6 years ago
To Fran :
Even if W&Z's prohibition is removed due to unlawful sacking, people who left and people from IW will still have (I guess) this proposition in their contracts.
Something like 'you cannot work with former client/business partners and cannot work for another studio in a xx kilometers range and xx months timeframe" Well, just a guess...
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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts6 years ago
Well it's clear what Activision will do if they win (keep making more CoD). But what happens if they lose? Anyone have a best case / worst case / most likely scenario?

This is an unbelievable opportunity for EA. If this whole thing goes in their favor, and The Old Republic manages to put a dent in WoW's profits, EA could see an extremely profitable decade ahead.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
@ Pierre

Fair point, hadn't thought about it from other employee perspectives.

@ Andrew

I can't see Activision losing the MW franchise, but I CAN see them either giving it to another studio to do, or the title taking forever at IW because of staff changes.

Anyway, I'd agree with what someone else mentioned on a previous thread - we're all speculating without knowing the ins and outs of the contracts and what's gone on in the background, and probably most of what we need we know is far from the truth. Oh well, time will tell:)

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Solomon Lee Web-Based Games Reviewer 6 years ago
Great move by EA. What a PR nightmare for Activision at this time.
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Malachy O'Neill Lead Tester, Microsoft Studios6 years ago
This reminds me of when the creators of the original Championship Manager had to change the title to Football Manager when they formed a new company/signed with a new publisher.
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Michael Vandendriessche Studying Computer Science, K.U. Leuven6 years ago
Isn't this one of the most fun and interesting recent occurrences in the industry :)
i wish good luck to both parties.
Respawn Entertainment (awesome name indeed) shouldn't have trouble finding skilled people. There will probably be some ex-IW members but i doubt it will influence IW a lot (quality wise i mean, well i hope). New people will take the lead and IW will continue delivering quality products. Perhaps even better now they have a new rival.

I'm looking forward to see more about this.
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Jason Young6 years ago
@Pierre
Non-compete contracts/clauses aren't legal in California except in a few specific cases.
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Haven Tso Web-based Game Reviewer 6 years ago
I thought they had enough with huge corps like Activision? Why do they form a devil's pact with EA? They are equally bad...
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Perhaps EA in 2010 are looking to change their core strategy by developing new IPs and allowing for quality development, perhaps there are also great fringe benefits....
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Good job guys!
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robert troughton Managing Director, Coconut Lizard6 years ago
"I thought they had enough with huge corps like Activision? Why do they form a devil's pact with EA? They are equally bad..."

Money.
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Pierre Vandenbroucke Assistant de production, Gorgone Productions6 years ago
IW was part of Activison, While Respawn in only working with EA (more specificaly with EA Partners which is a Publisher only activity).
Also they keep full property over the IPs, which was one of the main issues with Activision in the MW case.
Maybe nostalgia in the sake of the good ol' Medal of Honor times.. Who knows.

Oh, and money too... ^^

Edit: Jason, good info, I didn't know that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Pierre Vandenbroucke on 13th April 2010 8:15am

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