This week I decided to take a step back from the inspirational side of my life and take a deeper look at two people who’ve made quite the impact on the industry from both a creative standpoint and a legal one as well. We’re going to take a look at the founders of Infinity Ward and the creative minds behind the Call of Duty franchise: Jason West and Vince Zampella.
West and Zampella started off in a company known as 2015 Inc. which ended up developing Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for the PC in 2002. They were both the creative designers behind the game and worked alongside Steven Spielberg to create it. Shortly before the game’s release, West and Zampella went on to form the studio that would ultimately create the most successful franchise to date, Infinity Ward.
Upon leaving 2015 Inc., West and Zampella formed Infinity Ward with another associate, Grant Collier, and 22 other members from the same company, and started work on Call of Duty thanks to the help of Activision. Call of Duty was a World War II shooter that was released in 2003 and published by Activision on the PC that would be later ported to the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. The day after its release, Activision went on to buy the majority of Infinity Ward’s shares and signed on each member of the team through long term contracts.
After the successful release of Call of Duty, West and Zampella started working on its sequel, Call of Duty 2, which would release in 2005 for the PC and as a launch title for the Xbox 360. With the franchise still just getting off its feet, West and Zampella wanted to move the series in a new direction to differentiate itself from all of the other shooters from the previous generation and with the new technology available to them, they were capable of doing so. Treyarch would go on to create Call of Duty 3, but in the meantime, West and Zampella pushed the company to start work on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released in 2007 for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with a Wii and DS port in the following years. The game was the first in the series to receive a “M for Mature” rating and the first to break away from the World War II era. It became a critical success, with retailers only able to fulfill purchases for reserved copies. Over the next eight months, the game would go on to sell ten million units worldwide. With the game being one of the best-selling games of 2007, Activision wanted a sequel and Infinity Ward started production on a sequel to the successful game.
At this point in time, Call of Duty branched into its own different entities. Infinity Ward would helm the Modern Warfare franchise, and Treyarch would helm the off-year games and ultimately create the Black Ops franchise. Infinity Ward had started to create Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and was released in 2009 across all platforms except the Wii. It ultimately went on to outsell its predecessor by almost twice the amount within less than a year. However, with something as successful as a franchise like this, things tend to have some problems down the road, some being a greater concern than others.
Four months after the release of Modern Warfare 2, West and Zampella were fired from Infinity Ward by Activision due to a “breach of contract and insubordination.” This came as quite a shock to not only their fellow associates, but the gaming community as a whole due to the critical success of the franchise. What soon followed would become one of the biggest legal debacles in the industry as West and Zampella filed a lawsuit against Activision over unpaid royalties to the Call of Duty franchise and even went further to make several other claims that Activision had legally promised them. Activision created a countersuit against the two, claiming they had been working with competitors and even put EA in the countersuit. Over the next two years, tension would build up over the lawsuits as other employees left Infinity Ward and also made their own claims and lawsuits against Activision. Two days before the lawsuit would officially be taken to court, Activision settled with both EA and the former heads of Infinity Ward outside of court for an undisclosed amount.
During the time of the lawsuit, West and Zampella went on to form another studio with EA called Respawn Entertainment and have been secretly working on a new project believed to be a sci-fi oriented shooter. As for any announcements on when the game is to be released or what its truly about – nobody knows. Time will tell in terms of when we’ll find out.