Activision execs offered Infinity Ward staff a 50 percent pay increase and told staff to “take the money and get over it” after the publisher dramatically fired the developer’s founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in 2010.
That’s according to a fresh account with further details on the fallout from Activision’s now-legendary ousting of West and Zampella, as published on LinkedIn by lead designer Paul Sandler (spotted by PC Gamer).
Sandler writes that he was told about the loss of West and Zampella by a fellow employee who rode a scooter around the Infinity Ward office, sharing the news. “I just sat there in stunned silence with my eyes wide open,” Sandler wrote. “I stood up from my chair and said: ‘What the fuck? …Why?'”
West and Zampella’s exit from Infinity Ward has been much-chronicled, with the pair embroiled in discussions over starting their own studio – what became Titanfall and Apex Legends studio Respawn Entertainment, owned by Activision arch-rival EA.
But many of the finer details on the day the pair were fired, as recounted now by Sandler, are new – including an “emergency company meeting” held within Infinity Ward’s kitchen with Activision execs brought in to break the news and steady the ship – before too many of West and Zampella’s loyal colleagues followed them out the door, mid-development on the studio’s next project.
“The fact our respected studio-heads, our leaders, had been canned in such a sudden and cold-blooded fashion brought the entire team a collective feeling of anger and a deep sense of unfairness,” Sandler recalled. “Activision had stepped on a metaphorical landmine. They were about to lose nearly half of the entire studio, putting the development of Modern Warfare 3 at risk.”
After an initial attempt to put across Activision’s perspective on the firings, the executives allegedly went on to play “hardball” – referencing the studio’s then-unpaid bonuses for completing Modern Warfare 2, and an eye-catching pay rise if staff stayed with the studio for Modern Warfare 3.
“Guys, if you stay with the studio to make Modern Warfare 3, you will receive your MW2 bonuses,” the Activision execs said, according to Sandler. “AND we will also give everyone a 50 percent salary increase.”
Sandler then claims he distinctly remembers the execs saying: “Just take the money and get over it.”
Modern Warfare 2 was 2009’s best-selling game worldwide, which racked up a billion dollars of sales in two months.
Ultimately, between 40 and 50 employees still went on to leave Infinity Ward directly after West and Zampella’s firing – the majority of whom transferred directly over to the newly-funded Respawn Entertainment, to join their former leaders. A lengthy legal battle between Activision and the pair followed, although was ultimately settled quietly out of court.