Ex-Call of Duty dev claims Activision tried to stop Respawn Entertainment being formed

Ex-Call of Duty dev claims Activision tried to stop Respawn Entertainment being formed
Images via Activision | Respawn Entertainment

Written by 

Jack Marsh

Published 

12th Feb 2024 16:23

There's a certain irony in the fact that Call of Duty's biggest battle royale rival is born out of its own very studios.

The older Call of Duty fans might remember the collapse of Infinity Ward back in 2009 shortly before the launch of the iconic Modern Warfare 2 (now remastered in Modern Warfare 3), as the iconic studio lost 40% of its staff in a mass exodus following the firing of Co-Founders Jason West and Vince Zampella.

But now one former Call of Duty developer has opened up on how Activision tried to keep their staff amid the Infinity Ward collapse, which turned into the Apex Legends studio Respawn Entertainment.

Ex-Call of Duty dev claims Activision tried to prevent Infinity Ward staff from leaving with 50% pay rises

Click to enlarge
Image via Infinity Ward

Back in 2009, Infinity Ward spearhead figures West and Zampella were abruptly fired from the company, as Activision reportedly gained wind of alleged meetings between the duo and Electronic Arts - where they eventually wound up.

This sprung a legal saga over back pay, bonuses, and wrongful termination on one side, and a countersuit towards the released developers for collusion and breach of contract.

A month after the firing, West and Zampella announced Respawn Entertainment - a node to their second life - and subsequently a number of Infinity Ward members began to leave Activision.

In an article now published to LinkedIn, former Call of Duty developer Paul Sandler revealed just how Activision attempted to keep its staff on the day that their beloved bosses were escorted out of Activision HQ.

According to Sandler, Activision said (paraphrased), "Guys, if you stay with the studio to make Modern Warfare 3, you will receive your MW2 bonuses. AND we will also give everyone a fifty per cent salary increase."

"That is a five and a zero, fifty per cent," they added.

Ultimately, roughly 40 staff members (of approximately 100 employed at IW) left their roles, with many moving to Respawn Entertainment under their previous bosses.

Infinity Ward staff reportedly told to 'get over it' as Activision fired Founding duo

Click to enlarge
Image via Infinity Ward

Sandler, now a Lead Designer for NetEase Games (who worked on Diablo Immortal, Dead by Daylight Mobile, and Harry Potter: Magic Awakened), continued in his recollection of that day to say Activision concluded the meeting with staff by saying "get over it".

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"The executive spoke again: 'Look, I get it. I know this is a tough situation. But, just take the money and get over it.' I specifically remember him telling us to 'Get over it'," Sandler wrote.

Sandler himself stayed on at Infinity Ward to create Modern Warfare 3, Infinite Warfare, and the entire Modern Warfare series reboot, only leaving the company in August 2023.

As for West and Zampella though, they went on to create Titanfall and Apex Legends, two hugely successful franchises under EA's banner, as direct rivals to the Call of Duty series.

Jack is an Esports Journalist at GGRecon. Graduating from the University of Chester, with a BA Honours degree in Journalism, Jack is an avid esports enthusiast and specialises in Rocket League, Call of Duty, VALORANT, and trending gaming news.

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