The Infinity Wardämmerung seems to have reached its climax: Activision has announced that the series has been placed in the hands of Sledgehammer Games, makers of Dead Space.
We may not have all the information behind the tense situation between Activision and Infinity Ward, but we do have a conclusion: Activision has announced that the series will now be in the hands of Sledgehammer Games, a studio founded last year by veterans from Electronic Arts. Specifically, Sledgehammer is the brainchild of Glen A. Schofield and Michael Condrey, the head honchos on Dead Space.
Sledgehammer will be taking the reins for the 2011 Call of Duty following this year's Call of Duty 7: Probably in Vietnam, which I called back in January. The press release mentions taking cues from the Blizzard unit including "a focus on high-margin digital online content [to] further the brand as the leading action entertainment franchise in new geographies, new genres and with new digital business models." Fancy marketing talk, of course, but there are certainly worse studios to take lessons from (though one release a year isn't learning many lessons.)
Interestingly enough, the press release also states that Sledgehammer's 2011 Call of Duty "will extend the franchise into the action-adventure genre," meaning it may not be a traditional FPS at all. Call of Duty: Ghost, anyone?
As for the fate of Infinity Ward? Well, the press release confirms what we knew: Jason West and Vince Zampella are no longer with Infinity Ward, and they have been temporarily replaced by Activision's CTO Steve Pearce, and Steve Ackrich, head of production. Beyond that, though, it doesn't mention Infinity Ward other than mentioning that the studio is still working on map packs for Modern Warfare 2. Presumably Activision won't kill the studio for good as it did RedOctane - that would be monumentally stupid - but there's no question that things are different over there.
Sledgehammer is helmed by two talented guys, there's no question about that. But it must be hard to be at Infinity Ward right now - the rush of shipping one of the biggest games of all time, followed by a screeching crash into the wall of your publisher must have induced some serious mood whiplash.
Best of luck to everyone at Infinity Ward, however this turns out. The full press release is below:
Activision Publishing, Inc. today announced new strategic plans for the Call of Duty franchise, one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time.
The plans include the formation of a dedicated business unit that will bring together its various new brand initiatives with focused, dedicated resources around the world. The company intends to expand the Call of Duty brand with the same focus seen in its Blizzard(R) Entertainment business unit. This will include a focus on high-margin digital online content and further the brand as the leading action entertainment franchise in new geographies, new genres and with new digital business models.
"2010 will be another important year for the Call of Duty franchise," stated Mike Griffith, President and CEO of Activision Publishing. "In addition to continued catalog sales, new downloadable content from Infinity Ward and a new Call of Duty release, we are excited about the opportunity to bring the franchise to new geographies, genres and players."
The company expects to release a new Call of Duty game from Treyarch this fall. In addition, Infinity Ward is in development on the first two downloadable map packs for Modern Warfare 2 for release in 2010.
The company is also for the first time announcing that a new game in the Call of Duty series is expected to be released in 2011 and that Sledgehammer Games, a newly formed, wholly owned studio, is in development on a Call of Duty game that will extend the franchise into the action-adventure genre. Sledgehammer is helmed by industry veterans Glen A. Schofield and Michael Condrey. Prior to joining Activision Publishing, Schofield was the Executive Producer of the award-winning game, Dead Space and Michael Condrey was the Sr. Development Director on the game. The Dead Space franchise has won more than 80 industry awards worldwide including the prestigious A.I.A.S. Action Game of the Year and two B.A.F.T.A.S.
The Call of Duty business unit will be led by Philip Earl, who currently runs Activision Publishing's Asia Pacific region and previously served in senior executive positions with Procter & Gamble and Nestle. Activision Publishing veterans Steve Pearce, chief technology officer and Steve Ackrich, head of production, will lead Infinity Ward on an interim basis. Jason West and Vince Zampella are no longer with Infinity Ward.
Lastly, Activision Publishing announced that the company is in discussions with a select number of partners to bring the franchise to Asia, one of the fastest growing regions for online multiplayer games in the world.
Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, Activision Publishing, Inc. is a leading worldwide developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment and leisure products.