Steinberg fears for Infinity Ward 'creative freedom'

Future of Call of Duty uncertain

Speaking to this website, industry watcher Scott Steinberg has said that in the wake of the controversy that has enveloped Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward, he fears for the developer's ability to remain creatively independent.

"Talk about fog of war. Claiming to pay out your former studio heads bonuses to the remaining staffers is, shall we say, an interesting way to attempt to retain top talent, but an even more intriguing one via which to cloud the larger issues surrounding what this scenario, and the precedents it sets, mean for the larger industry as a whole," Steinberg tells us.

Following Zampella and West's departure to form Respawn, alongside EA, a number of the game makers departing Infinity Ward have gone on to join their form bosses at their new venture.

Steinberg continues: "I'd also argue that the firm's assertions that 'if people are young and hungry and have a vision for a new game, IW would be a good place to be' may be painting the situation in, shall we say, a bit too optimistic a light. While Activision will undoubtedly be in need of talent to fill the creative void that current and impending vacancies leave, things dont seem so rosy-colored when viewed from another angle. Consider that the publishers actions - splitting the COD franchise's future amongst multiple studios, game types and platforms - are highly calculated to put profits first, and, more tellingly, ensure that power doesnt concentrate in the hands of any single or group of developers again. Moreover, having been burned once by watching key stakeholders leave, what are the chances that the publisher would give new talent more, not less, control over the franchises future shape? The bigger picture issue here is a question of leverage - and large-scale publishers' increasing attempts to hold onto it in an era where developers are increasingly being re-empowered through vehicles such as digital distribution, app sales and microtransactions."

The analyst concludes: "While I've yet to see an exact calculation on how much Infinity Ward principals would each receive for staying, let's be frank. More likely than not, the price they'll pay in return for accepting that sum will, inevitably, be a large chunk of their creative and career freedom."


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