The other shoe’s dropped with regard to Activision’s plans for their Call of Duty franchise and big changes are a-comin’. A press release issued earlier today outlines the publisher’s roadmap for all things COD and it includes a mention of a new action/adventure game in 2011 by fledgling studio Sledgehammer Games. According to the release, Activision “intends to expand the Call of Duty brand with the same focus seen in its Blizzard® Entertainment business unit” and says there will be “new downloadable content from Infinity Ward and a new Call of Duty release” for this year.
Sledgehammer’s the new production unit headed up by Glenn Schofield and Michael Condrey, both formerly of Electronic Arts’ Visceral Studios where they led the development on EA’s Dead Space. At Visceral (once known as EA Redwood Shores), the pair also were part of the initial team behind Dante’s Inferno. With their recent output, one could speculate that Activision wants to take COD in a third-person direction, a la Gears of War. Also, the line about replicating Blizzard’s success could be a sign that the long-rumored COD MMO might become a reality.
As witnessed in the brouhaha around the Treyarch-developed World at War, Infinity Ward never wanted other developers in the COD playground. They’ve also reportedly ixnayed third-person variations on the FPS series, too. While the Activision SEC filings in the G4 report mention insubordination and breach-of-contract, , It’s unclear if their unwillingness to go along with Activision’s year-in, year-out publishing strategy for their biggest titles was what constituted breach.
The new guessing game will be where Infinity Ward’s former heads winds up and what the exact status of their in-development projects might be.
Reports started surfacing late yesterday that Activision may have ousted Vince Zampella and Jason West, heads of Infinity Ward. The studio’s responsible for the blockbuster success of the Call of Duty franchise and the series’ latest installment has reportedly made upwards of a billion dollars to date. According to G4’s Patrick Klepek, a source says that Zampell and West didn’t return to the studio offices after a morning meeting with Activision reps. A security firm reported shoed up at the developer’s offices as well. G4’s got screen caps of West’s Facebook page that seem to indicate that he’s no longer with the studio but Activision hasn’t made any statement yet regarding yesterday’s events.
There’s been tension between Infinity Ward and other Activision studios before, but Call of Duty tends to perform best in games that they develop first-hand. As details about start to trickle out over the next few days, what remains to be seen is whether the future of the studio and the future of the first-person shooter series will continue to be linked.