Infinity Ward has quietly been recruiting Respawn developers
Seven hires over the past year identified, includes three former IW staff
Several Respawn developers have left the Titanfall studio in favour of roles at Call of Duty studio Infinity Ward.
A Reddit thread points to the LinkedIn profiles for seven former members of the Titanfall team, who are all now working at the Activision-owned studio.
To be clear, this is not a sudden exodus from Respawn. The earliest departure seems to be Joel Emslie, who left his role as art director in February 2017 to become studio art director at Infinity Ward. That said, former Titanfall lead game designer Geoffrey Smith lists a vague '2017' date for his move to become multiplayer design director at the Call of Duty studio, so he could have left alongside or even before Emslie.
Emslie and Smith are two of the three people who previously worked at Infinity Ward before leaving to help form Respawn. Emslie was lead character artist prior to joining Respawn, while Smith was a designer working primarily on multiplayer maps.
Meanwhile Mark Grigsby was lead animator before he took the same role at Respawn. He is now listed as animation director at Infinity Ward as of June 2017.
The most recent recruit appears to be Ranon Sarano, who now works at the Call of Duty studio as senior animator - the same role he held at Respawn. He moved over last month.
Back in September, two Respawn team members defected to Infinity Ward: senior environment artist Joshua Dunnam and producer Dom McCarthy. A month prior, art producer Madison Cromwell left to join Infinity Ward as associate producer.
The connection between the studios will be well known to GamesIndustry.biz readers. Famously, Respawn was formed after Infinity Ward bosses and Call of Duty co-creators Vince Zampella and Jason West were fired over breaches of contract and insubordination. This occurred alongside disputes over royalties from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Respawn partnered with Electronic Arts to publish its first new IP, which would become the Titanfall franchise. Since then the publisher has also entrusted the team with an unannounced Star Wars game and a virtual reality title.
In November 2017, it was revealed that EA has acquired Respawn for $450 million. It's unclear whether this had an impact on these departures - most left before the acquisition was announced, though there may have been rumblings about such a move behind closed doors.
Instead, what's more likely to have motivated the departees is the desire to work on Call of Duty (particularly for those who already have). While Titanfall has always been well received, the decision to release the sequel between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (incidentally, the most recent Infinity Ward outing) seriously harmed its sales - something CEO Zampella acknowledged after launch.
Call of Duty, meanwhile, is on the rise again with last year's World War II achieving excellent critical and commercial success and anticipation already building for this year's multiplayer-only Black Ops 4.