Bonuses of departed IW employees will be "redistributed"

Activision blogger says studio will be reinvented by those that remain

Activision employee Dan Amrich has said the bonuses due to Infinity Ward employees that worked on Modern Warfare 2 but have since departed the company will be "redistributed to everybody else."

Speaking on the Facebook page for a group called "Gamers Against Bobby Kotick and Activision", Activision community site editor Amrich added that studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella were owed "very large bonuses" which would now be given to those who "did not allegedly attempt to steal company secrets."

"Vince and Jason had very large bonuses; those bonuses are being redistributed to everybody else, to the people who did not allegedly attempt to steal company secrets. (Please see Activision's countersuit for details about Vince and Jason's surreptitious attempts to photocopy and scan sensitive documents)," he wrote.

"Activision is not pocketing that bonus money; it's still going to the people who work at IW. But you have to work at IW to get it, see? :) I don't want to see talented people screwed out of a paycheck any more than you do."

Amrich added that he expected still more people to leave the troubled Infinity Ward studio, some of which could end up at West and Zampella's new Respawn studio.

"More people will probably go too, looking for new situations," he said. "Maybe they will join Respawn, maybe not.

"I'd think if you are young and hungry and have a vision for a new game, IW would be a really good place to be right now. There are so many young and hungry designers, programmers, and developers out there, and I suspect some of them are already employed at IW, just waiting for their shot. When the dust settles, I expect to see some talented people step up and redefine the studio."

"IW still exists; obviously its identity and company culture are going to go through huge changes in the coming months and years," he continued.

"But can we agree that change also means opportunity? When stuff happens and a situation changes, we all have the same core decision: Stay the course and reinvent, or move on to something else.

"The people who stick at IW will have to reinvent the studio, but it may well be that some of these people who cut their teeth on MW and MW2 are now ready to step up with their own ideas. AND they are getting a bigger chunk of the bonus money than they expected for what they already did."

Amrich also addressed the issue of creative freedom within Activision's internal studios, saying that he wanted to "bust the myth" that the publisher exercised too much control over their output. "The way it works at Activision is pretty simple and decentralised. Activision foots the bill; the developers follow their muse [...] They have creative freedom," he said.

The number of staff now thought to have left Infinity Ward following the sacking of its heads Zampella and West is thought to have reached 11.

Activision COO and CFO Thomas Tippl said earlier this week that there was interim leadership currently in place at the studio and nearly 100 people remained working there.

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Latest comments (12)

Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 12 years ago
I'm offended by Activision's company whores coming out and constantly jabbing at the people - both the leaders and their subordinates that have left, by association - that left the company, offended by "bouncers" locking them down.

What person in their right mind would work for Infinity Ward at this point?
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Chris Hayward12 years ago
^Someone who ultimately needs the money, many game developers simply can't leave a position due to ethical reasons concerning their parent company and be assured of getting a new job instantly, certainly not in this less than stellar economic climate.

I despise Activision's stance on all of this but I can't really pass any blame onto the developers.
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Patrick Williams Medicine and Research 12 years ago
Is this legal?
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Show all comments (12)
Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D12 years ago
@ Patrick

I doubt anyone who responds will be able to say for sure - the only people who know are Activision and their lawyers and the departed and theirs:(
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Martin Oliver Senior Sound Designer, Supermassive Games12 years ago
The only industry that you lose your credit and bonus, (earned from work already completed), if you leave the company? Is that legal?

EDIT: My point was: Leave the company by choice, not fired for misconduct. A company holding onto a bonus already earned by their employees to make them stay, must be illegal...and morally wrong....and very stupid?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Martin Oliver on 23rd April 2010 9:42am

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robert troughton Managing Director, Coconut Lizard12 years ago
Actually, in most industries, if somebody is fired for "gross misconduct", they would almost certainly lose any bonuses due to them, along with any shares they may have been given in the company, etc... it's usually in each person's contract.

So... the issue would come down to whether or not the case of gross misconduct would stand.

Do we know whether other x-employees lost their bonuses? Or was it just West and Zampella? The article above seems to suggest that others lost their bonuses - but the quotes only mention these two.
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Katherine Brice Deputy Editor, GamesIndustry.biz12 years ago
Hi Robert - Amrich implied in the Facebook thread that other employees leaving IW would lose out on bonuses. I didn't include this above but he also said:
"I'm confused, because by leaving, they are giving up their bonus - and the more people that leave, the bigger the bonus gets for the people who stay."

Of course, it's unlikely he's in a position to know the full details of each employee's contract and whether they'd received any bonuses before leaving, and he says as much later on in the thread.
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Stuart Hunt Senior Programmer, Slightly Mad Studios12 years ago
"But you have to work at IW to get it, see? :) I don't want to see talented people screwed out of a paycheck any more than you do."
Hmm, wasn't it the "talented" ones who left? ;)
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 12 years ago
I'm going to be the real businessman: IW let itself be bought by Activision with good contracts (and a lot of money), misters W. and Z. didn't act according to their (well paid for by activision) contracts so it's no wonder they got 'fired'. Remember they did the same before to EA in regard to Medal of Honor.
I presume the contracts state that you have to be working there if you want your bonus.
A lot of us just assume W. & Z. are victims, but it's just plain business and that's what's it all about, pure and simple business, they just ignored their contracts.. A lot of 'creative' people think they can just take the money (like selling IW to Activision) and don't think of the real business consequenses of it..

Personally if I was working for IW at the moment, I certainly would just stay put until they paid the bonus, and after that I would look further (maybe the situation has changed by then so you would stay, maybe it got worse for you, so you can always leave). Ethics are fine, but they don't put the bread on the table.. Just make sure you contract is better next time (in regard to bonusses)..

But it all really depends on the contracts the workers had with IW/Activion, and that's something none of us knows anything about..
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Alan Botvinick Producer 12 years ago
I think its very interesting that Activision is now starting to pay bonuses to the staff at IW. Why didn't they pay the staff right after they sacked W & Z. Its only after folks started to leave IW that they are paying out bonuses.

It seems that the motivation of Activision is not to reward those at IW but to prevent more staff from leaving.

At least folks are getting something but its for all the wrong reasons.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Alan Botvinick on 22nd April 2010 7:51pm

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Matthew Eakins Technical Lead, HB-Studios12 years ago
I think its interesting that Activision says they will pay bonuses but they don't say *when* they will pay them. Sounds like a giant carrot offered solely to stem the tide of folks jumping ship. I'd bet that it's going to remain dangling at the end of that stick for a long time to come.

I have to admit that I was under the impression it was standard practice in our industry that when you leave a development house that you are no longer eligible for bonuses/royalties on the titles you worked on. As far as I know there is no legislation that says a developer is entitled to royalties on anything they work on so it's up to the individual companies to determine how (and if at all) they distribute bonuses and royalties.
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 12 years ago
@ Chris Hayward:

I mean more the people that would ultimately go TO IW, not from it. I understand that anyone at Infinity Ward currently is likely stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it's unfair to criticize them for doing what is right by their family. But anyone getting a job? There'd have to be a dearth of choices, I would imagine, to consider working at Infinity Ward, or by extension Activision. Any reasonable person can see they're playing dirty pool.

It's especially notable considering the addendum added by Ms. Brice. Excuse my natural cynicism shining through for a split second, but what this shameless mouthpiece is saying is very clear: "stay with us, and you'll get paid! The more of you leave, the more there is for the rest of you!". In short, he's playing the company's employees against one another, especially when one remembers that nothing has been said about *when* these bonuses will be paid, if at all. The last time I saw politics like this at work it was when someone showed me clips of that UK game show Divided. I've never seen something so shameful, and I'm glad anytime I hear reports that the company is losing the people that made their games great. I'm also glad when I hear that this bad PR is showing results in Activision's stock price, since that's the only thing they care about.

EDIT: Wait a minute, correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't Activision said that they won't be "able" to distribute bonuses until the litigation has finished?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Christopher Bowen on 23rd April 2010 9:05am

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