In Defense of Infinity Ward Splintering
By Jeremy M. Zoss GameZone.com
When the status quo in the video game industry changes, fans naturally tend to worry, especially when those changes involve big name, well-liked developers. Take, for example, Bungie leaving the Halo franchise or the drama at Infinity Ward. While these events cause a lot of consternation amongst fans that worry these changes will sink their favorite franchises, these changes are actually good for the industry. It’s a phenomenon that I call splintering.
First, a caveat. The situation at Infinity Ward obviously caused a lot of stress for the employees and their families, and no one is suggesting that’s a good thing. Nobody’s defending the animosity between the developer and its parent company Activision. But while the separation between Activision and many of Infinity Ward’s key employees has been painful, the end result will ultimately be good for the industry. Regardless of what happens to the Infinity Ward name, some of the employees who remained behind will continue to develop quality Call of Duty games or other titles. Even without the key employees who created the franchise, the Infinity Ward team will be able to attract talented individuals and use their experience to continue to make compelling titles. Say what you will about Activision, but the company isn’t going to abandon a billion-dollar franchise.
Meanwhile, the ex-Infinity Ward staffers at the newly formed Respawn Entertainment will also be able to use their experience and pedigree to attract skilled developers and create an all-new action franchise that’s sure to be destined for big things. In short, what was one group of developers working on one blockbuster project has splintered into two. More talented teams means more quality games for gamers. There never would have been an Infinity Ward in the first place had a group of developers not splintered off from Medal of Honor studio 2015, Inc.
The case of Bungie is obviously a bit different, but will ultimately have the same result – there will be two teams producing high-quality games where before there was only one. Obviously, Bungie is an enormously talented studio, and whatever project they create under their new publishing deal with Activision will be one that instantly becomes one of the hottest properties in gaming. At the same time, no console is more closely associated with a single game than the Xbox and Halo. Microsoft has been very open that the Halo franchise will continue after Reach, and the publisher simply cannot afford to make the first post-Bungie Halo game anything short of excellent. It may seem shocking to the audience of this site, but there are plenty of gamers out there who don’t know and don’t care who makes the games they play. There will certainly be gamers who play the Halo game after Reach who are completely unaware that Bungie left the series.
New video game studios always rise out of old ones. Oftentimes, old studios don’t survive the transition when key personnel leave. But in these specific instances, the departures of the people who created them won’t kill the Call of Duty or Halo franchises. Both will go on for years to come, and the developers that left them will go on to create new franchises that are every bit as vital and exciting as the ones we now associate them with. So Microsoft isn’t the winner for keeping the Halo franchise, nor is Activision for hanging on to Call of Duty. Bungie isn’t the winner for breaking free of their corporate owners, nor are the ex-Infinity Ward staffers at Respawn. No, the gaming public is the winner, because we’re the ones who have a wider selection of games to play at the end of it all.