Colorwind Reacts: Activision vs. EA

On March 1st 2010, a group of “bouncer-type” people showed up at developer Infinity Ward’s office and refused to answer why they were there. Vince Zampella and Jason West, the two heads of Infinity Ward, had gone to a meeting with Activision executives and hadn’t been seen since. By the following morning, Zampella and West had been fired and had been replaced temporarily by two Activision employees. Following this, nearly half of the staff resigned in the next three months and most of them joined their former bosses in their new development studio, Respawn Entertainment.

Lawsuits eventually were filled, both by Zampella and West, a group by current and former Infinity Ward employees and by Activision. The two heads cited unpaid royalties, the employees wanted money for damages and Activision claimed the two heads were schemers. Later, the Activision lawsuit was amended to include Electronic Arts. Respawn Entertainment was now receiving backing for their first project from EA’s partners program and Activision was now accusing EA of beginning a conspiracy with Zampella and West.

Fast forward to the following year. EA announces Battlefield 3 in February of 2011. EA also makes it clear that they are gunning for Activision’s Call of Duty series, whose upcoming entry will be the Infinity Ward developed Modern Warfare 3. After a exciting yet predicable Michael Bay-ish game demo at E3 2011, EA showed off an impressive but somewhat dull gameplay demo of Battlefield 3. The battle was now in full swing and little stories such as Activision head Bobby Kotick being denied an opportunity to play Battlefield 3.

Recently, a fan used the domain name to advertise for Battlefield 3 by calling Modern Warfare 3 “a copy and paste sequel” and “for Modern Warfare 3 fanboys who don’t know Battlefield 3 is the better game”. Later, the page simply re-directed to Battlefield 3’s official page. Activision is now filing a complaint to acquire the page for itself. Information about the domain’s owner has also been released.

I enjoy the Call of Duty series, although I’m not a big fan of it. Call of Duty 2 is my favorite. However, this is an example of when the business practices of a publisher starts to overshadow their products. Activision now has the reputation of being the big corporate chimp of video games and when creativity goes to die. However I remember before Activision, Vivendi and Blizzard merged together, EA was seen as the big video game conglomerate. Activision is known to run a franchise into the ground, like Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk. On the other hand, Capcom does the same thing. That’s why there’s five different Mega Man series, and over 15 different Street Fighter games.

Many gamers have seen this as a war against corporations with Kotick as the figure to rally against. Some have sworn to stop supporting Activision and not buy their games. However, this hurts the developers as well. I could appeal to all gamers and ask that everyone just enjoy the games they like, regardless of the background politics. At the same time, if these practices are allowed and even supported with high sales numbers, the creative integrity of our beloved industry will be compromised. What do you think is the answer? Do you feel this doesn’t matter in the big picture? Comment and share your opinion below and let me know where you stand on this issue.


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