The mood at Infinity Ward, the studio behind 2009's biggest game, is terrible and corporate parent Activision is unsure how to fix it, a source close to the development studio tells Kotaku. Infinity Ward, they said, "will continue to crumble."
The source is privy to the goings on in Infinity Ward this week, an eventful period since Monday's news that Jason West and Vince Zampella, the former chiefs of Infinity Ward who were fired by Activision in early March, were starting a new company, Respawn Entertainment.
Top Infinity Ward developers started leaving the studio last week and have continued to since the Respawn news, costing the under-100-person operation more than a dozen development employees.
"They're scared shitless," the source said of Activision management. "They never saw this coming. They can't believe what's going on. At first they gave us some bullshit about moving up payments of all the money they owe us to sooner increments. That was when [designer] Todd [Alderman] and [engineer] Frank [Gigliotti] left. But with the announcement of Respawn and all the people leaving, they just got there heads in their hands."
Activision had not responded to a request for comment regarding the state of Infinity Ward.
While Activision's counterclaim against the fired West and Zampella accuse the men of trying to undermine both Activision and the financial well-being of the Infinity Ward developers who worked under them, the Infinity Ward insider painted the former bosses in a positive light, blaming Activision for withholding Modern Warfare 2 payments. "They fired the two most amazing leaders we've ever seen, and then shafted us all out of a lot of money that was promised to us...there is nothing they can do to gain our trust or respect. And I'm pretty sure they know it now."
The pace of departures has slowed slightly, with no news in the past 48 hours of anyone else leaving Infinity Ward. Our source says that Activision is bringing in people from other studios to fill in gaps created by the departures, in the hopes to move ahead with the expected Modern Warfare 3. That won't work, our source said: "IW as you know it is dead...and it will continue to crumble. There are a lot more veterans who are definitely going to leave."
Update: While we've not heard from Activision we have heard from another Infinity Ward insider who has a more positive take on the studio's future: "First off, yes, it is a shitty situation, but there are two kinds of people left: ones that are sticking it out for the money, and others who want to make something work. We are not dead, we definitely lost original team members, but not all of the talent. When you talk about the people who left, they are the best in the business, but equally everyone at Infinity Ward deserves that same credential. We are here for the long haul of keeping the Modern Warfare name alive, but as your article clearly shows, certain people are still pissed about it. We just had this discussion in our Monday meeting, 'We still have the talent that will get us to where we need to go, and now is the time to find our new leaders.'"
For a recap of the latest events in the imbroglio involving Activision, Infinity Ward, West, Zampella and now EA, check out Kotaku's ongoing Call of Duty Legal Warfare coverage.