Is Blactivision Imploding?

2 03 2010

Infinity Ward LogoActivision Blizzard, Inc. (or Blactivision, as I call them) has officially lost its collective minds.  Like, certifiably.

So, if you’ve been into games at all in the last year, you’ve probably heard of one of Activision Blizzard, Inc.’s holdings, Infinity Ward.  And if you’ve heard of them, you’ve probably heard of this little art-house game they worked on, entitled “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2“.  However, printing money is apparently not high on the value list for Activision, according to the following:

In a strange black-ops quietness that was confirmed only recently, Infinity Ward’s President, Jason West (AUTHOR EDIT: and CEO Vince Zampella) was fired by Activision.  This is the man who led the company through some of its most profitable ventures, and made bank for the most recent game in PREORDERS, with many gamers plunking down cash for the name recognition alone, sight-unseen.  (Of course, fans of the series are loving Modern Warfare 2, although the critical response generally states that the game doesn’t hold as much gravitas and that moment-to-moment impact as the first Modern Warfare.)

So, pair this with CEO Bobby Kotick‘s most recent comments at the DICE conference, the layoffs in, and shuttering of the Red Octane brand, and one has to wonder what the heck is going on with Activision at the moment.  There’s no way that this is a savvy business move, and it can do nothing but tank morale for the other developers under the Blizzard/Activision banner.

Sure, Starcraft II is going to keep Activision/Blizzard with cash flowing.  And World of Warcraft is forever going to be a money factory for them.  But then again, Blizzard is not the part of the company that I’m criticizing.  They’re smart, savvy people over there.  Apparently, something of this magnitude would have to pass Kotick’s desk to sign off on.  Something is wrong with the man, or the company is prepping for a fall.  Or trying to lower earnings, so the stock falls, so Blizzard can buy them outright or something.  I have no idea, but this has terrible business sense written all over it.

I guarantee though, that we’re going to hear a lot more about this in the future.  Mind you, surely there could be some terrible skeletons that West is finally catching up to, but in my opinion, this move, for whatever reason, only solidifies Activision’s persona as of late as corporate goons looking only at the bottom line, rather than the gaming revolutionaries that they began as back in the day.

If there’s no sordid backstory, all OtakuDad can say, is that I wish Jason West the very best and we are CERTAIN that he will be snagged by some very lucky company soon.  If there’s a sordid backstory, then I hope that things will work out, that West will repent, bounce back, and get back to making great triple-A titles.

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Okay, so other than Jason West’s personal Facebook profile stating that he’s been fired, there’s no OFFICIAL comment.  So while I’m calling this one fact, it’s not OFFICIAL fact until someone corporate says something.

Also, something I intended to add but forgot, when originally written, was that this firing was a surprise exit by Activision security, and all the staff at Infinity Ward have no idea what is going down as well.  Again, I cannot imagine this does ANYTHING positive to company morale, and will reverberate throughout the Activision banner’s holdings.

FINAL UPDATE: It’s official.  Activision Blizzard, Inc. has officially reported that Jason West and Vince Zampella, the heads of Infinity Ward, have been fired, although no reason has been given for their departure.  The Call of Duty franchise will be moved to its own internal “studio” status, and will be headed by “Activision publishing veterans”, whatever that means.

May I repeat again, that this will do NOTHING but hinder future efforts and reduce morale throughout Activision Blizzard, Inc., and that this tactic of “ANYONE IS EXPENDABLE!” will simply move developers towards safer, less-innovative content.

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