The CEO of Activision-Blizzard has broken his silence on the turbulent row at Infinity Ward, which in March saw the dismissal of senior staff at the studio for alleged ‘insubordination’.
Speaking at a financial call, Bobby Kotick said that he had no choice but to fire co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella.
He said that the decision to terminate the two studio bosses “was not done lightly”.
In front of a wide array of company investors and news reporters, Kotick insisted that the pair’s dismissal was not spurred in any way by the termination of ‘substantial royalty payments’ owed to the duo after they finished work on Modern Warfare 2.
"Nor was the decision made without a great deal of deliberation about the consequences," he said, as quoted by Gamasutra.
"We felt we had no choice but to terminate the Infinity Ward executives. We did this to protect the company’s assets and the interest of our shareholders," he said.
"There was nothing that would have allowed us to retain their services, as talented as they might have been."
Kotick decided against mentioning either West or Zampella by name, but claimed that he once “personally considered [both] friends."
Speaking of the allegations of insubordination on West and Zampella’s part, Kotick added: “Their conduct was a compromise of our friendship, which was equally disappointing.”
A lawsuit on the matter is currently in development. No verdict has been reached.
Kotick insisted Activision "chose the difficult right rather than the easier wrong" when dismissing the pair. He said there was no “grey area” in the legal matter, suggesting that both West and Zampella had contravened clear rules set out in contracts and company policy.
A group of former and current Infinity Ward employees recently launched a separate lawsuit against Activison, claiming to be owed up to $125 million in royalty payments.
The suit claims that Activision withheld bonuses and royalties "in an attempt to keep the employees hostage so that Activision could reap the benefit of the completion of Modern Warfare 3".
Activision said the suit had “no merit.”
Amid the legal allegations, over thirty staff have left the studio in intermittent waves. Nearly half of those gone were revealed to have joined Respawn Entertainment – a new independent studio owned by Zampella and West, and fully backed by rival publisher EA.
Following the announcement, Activision shocked the world by announcing a ten-year publishing deal with Halo developer Bungie.
In an interview with Develop, Bungie community director Brian Jarrard said that the studio was not concerned with the Infinity Ward legal developments when signing a deal with Activision.
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