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Modern Warfare Who?

Just how 'damaged' is Infinity Ward?

Has the video games industry ever come closer to a public soap opera? From 'stormed' offices to counter-suing hostilities; Vader-esque cries of "insubordination" to ultimate defections, it's had it all.

But perhaps the most telling element of the Activision/Infinity Ward saga has been the resilient silence of the studio itself. Fans may throw mud at Kotick and co. for instigating the ugly situation, but you've got to hand it to Activision - as protectionist forcefields go, they've built a belter.

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Of course, IW's buttoned lips only serve to Tabasco-up the rumours hanging over the studio's future - most tellingly when even rival EA is calling the Modern Warfare franchise 'damaged'.

Will the games industry's biggest provider of fireworks - both in-game and in column inches - unfittingly fizzle out and fade away? Or could it pull off the seemingly impossible - using its enforced pruning to re-emerge fresher, risk-taking... sod it, better?

With typical ginger bombast, Activision boss Bobby Kotick has added fuel to the fire of both possibilities. Last month, he told us a rosy future awaited IW - and, indeed, that the team was busy on an unannounced project (can you tell what it is yet?).

At least, what was left of the team. His revelation of further detail painted a less positive picture: "Since we terminated the two executives at Infinity Ward, approximately 35 others have resigned and it is likely that few more people will leave as well."

Future Warfare?
Blimey. That's over a third of Infinity Ward's creative talent gone - and an admission that more are on their way. It doesn't take a hardcore industry observer to guess where they're going, either.

Respawn - set up by ex-Infinity Ward chiefs Vince Zampella and Jason West - has made a nice home for a bundle of recently-departed IW staffers. And according to EA Partners boss David DeMartini, the new recruiting effort isn't halting anytime soon (see boxout, below).

But everywhere Infinity Ward have gone in the past, us lot (i.e. the twitchingly devoted gaming press) have been keen to follow... and then inflate a headline or two.

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Could the most shocking thing about the whole current affair be its real-life mundanity; that the IW 'exodus' is closer to standard practice than we'd like to think?

It's not uncommon for developers to leave a studio after finishing a project, of course. But over a third?

"Good staff leaving is often a disappointment, but I'm sure good staff remain," says Jason Kingsley, CEO of Aliens Vs. Predator developer Rebellion. "And whilst change can be painful at the times, it can often turn out for the best, or brings a fresh new set of perspectives with it.

"Activision are a strong company with a great track record and excellent management who seem more than capable of managing transitions like this. Also, it must be an exciting time for the ex-IW staff too as they can look to new challenges. However, I do think that business models are changing and that a flexible approach to staffing is needed by both management and employees."

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