Activision outlines Call of Duty reshuffle

Sledgehammer Games to create new "action-adventure" title; Infinity Ward under new leadership

Activision Blizzard has moved swiftly to counter any investor concern over the recent Infinity Ward executive departures of Jason West and Vince Zampella by announcing a reshuffle of the Call of Duty franchise.

Under plans announced today, while Infinity Ward will continue to work on the downloadable content for Modern Warfare 2, Treyarch will add this year's wholly new title and an additional CoD game has been confirmed for 2011.

However, while it's not clear if that game will be an Infinity Ward title, is has been announced that Sledgehammer Games - a studio formed last November by ex-Visceral studio head Glen Schofield and Dead Space executive producer Michael Condrey - "is in development on a Call of Duty game that will extend the franchise into the action-adventure genre," according to a statement.

Meanwhile Activision is forming a dedicated business unit to bring further focus on the multi-billion-dollar franchise, to be led by Philip Earl - currently the company's head of publishing in Asia-Pacific.

And Infinity Ward will be led by Activision's CTO Steve Pearce and head of production Steve Ackrich on an interim basis as it is confirmed that West and Zampella are "no longer with the company" - although no further details have been given.

"2010 will be another important year for the Call of Duty franchise," commented Mike Griffith, president and CEO of Activision Publishing. "In addition to continued catalogue 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."

Regarding "new geographies," the statement also revealed that the company was "in discussions with a select number of partners to bring the franchise to Asia, one of the fastest growing regions for online multiplayer games in the world," as it looks to build Call of Duty into a truly global IP.

The news, announced after the markets on the US East Coast had closed, followed a 1.2 per cent decline in company stock value to $10.81 - but after hours trading saw that rebound in the half hour after the statement was released.

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Latest comments (15)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
I'm at a complete loss for words.

Of their 3 big franchises, the CoD franchise is the only one growing and instead of distilling the fundamentals that achieved that growth, they plan to completely alter the series and punish the studio responsible for the growth?
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Chris Hayward8 years ago
I somehow doubt that its share prices will be as strong as they are now come CoD 7s inevitable November release date

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Hayward on 2nd March 2010 10:29pm

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Luke Williams Functionality Tester, SEGA Europe8 years ago
I've no idea why they would replace the heads of Infinity Ward with 2 guys from Activision, surely this is going to cause a lot of walk-outs from the rest of the staff?

And are they not taking note of what happened with Guitar Hero, if you bash them out every year and saturate the market sales drop like a lead balloon, and yet now we can expect 2 more call of duty titles this year alone, I don't understand whats making them think that sticking CoD on the box will add to another $1 billion revenue.

And in regards to Sledgehammer studios turning it into a action/adventure type of game, do a bit of work and make a new IP at least, would be the perfect time for it surely.
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Laurent Mandement Freelance Journalist 8 years ago
What do they mean by "action-adventure genre", Third person shooter ? Am I the only one to think that it doesn't really resonate with that franchise ?

The funny thing is that Bobby Kotick delivered a speech a few weeks ago at DICE about how Activision is about perserving the culture of the studios, and letting creative people thrive... and now this ?

By the way, does anyone know what happened to Grant Collier, the former Infinity Ward CEO ? Apparently, he left the company after the release of Call of Duty 4 to work on something for Activision, and we haven't heard of him ever since. It is strange how the three leaders of the company are now out of the picture...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Laurent Mandement on 2nd March 2010 11:02pm

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Jack Loftus Contributing Editor, Gizmodo8 years ago
Activision makes 98% of its revenues from three franchises. All three franchises are long in the tooth, with music games and WoW really showing their age (hell, music games might already be dead as of the writing of this comment, I don't know).

They're doubling down on their $1 billion baby. That said, why am I still pessimistic about the publisher's future? Can the market even sustain that many new CoD titles in one year? More importantly, does the market (read: the customers) even want that many to begin with?

Any why do I get the feeling that "new" CoD titles will only innovate by adding sharper graphics and more voice acting/cut scenes?
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Jack Loftus Contributing Editor, Gizmodo8 years ago
@Werner: I'm more than happy to admit when I'm wrong, as I was when I mixed by Blizzard's stand alone numbers with Activision overall in my comment. Thanks for the correction!
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David De windt Key Account Manager, Ubisoft8 years ago
don't forget they got starcraft coming in june and that they will be selling a lot of COD @ full price untill EY.
Revenue is assured for the coming 2 years.
But after that I think they will have milked the cow a bit too much. They lack creativity.
By then I think EA will once again take the lead.
EA is better positioned to take advantage of digitale distr, online and mobile.
It's funny to see how Kotick does the same things that he always blaimes EA doing.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 8 years ago
I would be interested in seeing Activision's take on the reason West & Zampella were removed. It must be pretty serious 'gross misconduct' if they've chopped the head off of their second most successful development studio. I do think they're being foolish with over-saturating the franchise; have they not realised from the crash of Tony Hawk's or the decline of music games that consumers get bored of the same thing after a few years?

With regard to Sledgehammer Games, given that the studio heads behind Dead Space are helming the project, I expect their CoD instalment will be a third-person shooter, probably not unlike Gears or Ghost Recon. It's a shame really, because as Luke says above, it seems like the perfect opportunity to make a new IP to add to their portfolio.

I wouldn't be surprised if West & Zampella form another independant development studio, and take most of the IW staff with them. I can also imagine that EA would gladly give them jobs working on the new Medal of Honor.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Terence Gage on 3rd March 2010 11:25am

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Supul Jayawardane Freelance Writer/Software Engineer 8 years ago
If we disregard the fact the Activision is taking the MW franchise on an action/adventure path, the negative impact on the removing Vince and Jason might be minimal. If activision was planning to take the franchise in a whole new direction, then the current minds behind the MW franchise may not be of much use to Activision. Vince and Jason may have objected to this decision strongly in order to provoke such a response from Acitvision.

In short they may have outlived their usefulness to Activision. The fact remains whether it is right or wrong to remove the 2 men who played a major role in Activision and Inifinity's success.
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Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire8 years ago
When you are responsible for producing the original titles that become a franchise and a top-drawer IP, the studio & it's collective are just as vital in terms of IP.

There are very few examples where the creation point has changed and the IP has remained as powerful as a whole.

Speaking to a major publishing force lately, it was clear that they got this. It would appear that Activision do not.

The power, drive and passion of those in the development driving seat should not be under-estimated when planning the commercial masterplan. Just my 10c.
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 8 years ago
Personally, I'm watching what's happening over at Activision with glee. They have a Microsoft-like vibe to them, but unlike Microsoft, they're not too big where their horrid mistakes and major PR missteps can't hurt them really bad. As they keep crapping out CoD titles, they're not only going to further dilute the name, but the bad PR will eventually catch up to them as their consumer base - admittedly, a consumer base that can be about as thick as it gets - starts to look at other alternatives.

Oh, and let this be a lesson for anyone who heard Bobby Kotick's speech at DICE and declared him to be "OK".

EDIT: All of this is assuming that the two in question - longtime employees, including a company founder - weren't doing some truly stupid crap. I might get burned for this, but I'm going to assume that's not the case yet.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christopher Bowen on 3rd March 2010 4:16pm

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Sander Stricker Product Manager Games, Sanoma Media8 years ago
EA should hire Jason and Vince to make Medal of Honor again :D
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Robert Huebner President/CEO, Nihilistic Software8 years ago
Crazy stuff. Fun to follow (and not be a part of).

There are definitely two sides to every story, I keep hoping someone from IW will post a revealing comment or twitter update or something to give us a peek inside. Without a counterpoint to Activision's statements, it just comes off more and more like Darth Vader vs. the Rebel Alliance.

Activisions multiple public statements are probably striking the right note for investors, but they're only reinforcing the perception of people in the industry about what they susepct behind the scenes; suits vs. creatives cage-match.

Its dangerous to let that perception go unchallenged. It might not hurt their bottom-line in the near-term, but in the long term, if a company has a reputation of ruthlessness, it could hurt future ability to acquire talent & studios.

The DICE speech seemed like the start of a "charm offensive", but this sort of cuts the legs out from under it.

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Dave Turner Director, PRM London8 years ago
Perhaps Acti were concerned that the studio was getting to big and were scared of another Blizzard happening so thought they'd decapitate it or perhaps the guys asked for some major money and Acti wanted to make a point.

Like most of you other guys, id like to just hear the truth.

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Vitalii Moskalets Game Designer, GameLoft8 years ago
Maybe Jason and Vince will be good hirings for Medal of Honor. And I'm sure that like CoD overwhelmed Medal in past, now Medal have very good chances to win over CoD.
I think Activision make very big mistake to do such thing with Infinity Ward.
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