This past week has been an emotional roller-coaster for “Modern Warfare” fans. First, a confusing security “incident” on Monday at the offices of developer Infinity Ward ended with rumors that Infinity Ward masterminds Vince Zampella and Jason West leaving the company they built up. As things began to settle, Call of Duty producer Activision announced that they had, in fact, fired the two for “insubordination”: By Activision’s account, West and Zampella were in breach of their contracts when they, according BingeGamer, contacted other producers about working on a new non-COD game. The next day, West and Zampella fired back, announcing that they will be suing Activision for the rights to the “Modern Warfare” franchise. The dejected developers said they were fired after a biased investigation by the company that wanted the two out after years of conflict and the studio’s desire to work on other projects before developing “Modern Warfare 3”.
The question is now; how will this scandal affect the future of the “Modern Warfare” series?
Truthfully, the falling out may very well kill the series. Assuming that Activision produces the next Modern Warfare title, they’ll be forced to fully re-evaluate the series for the first time since it’s inception. West and Zampella were the creative forces behind the most successful entries in the Call of Duty series; Call of Duty, Call of Duty 2, Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2. (Plus, before forming Infinity Ward the duo oversaw development of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, which was easily the best game in the series.) Meanwhile, other COD games, made by alternative developer Treyarch, have been well-made but are generally based on the Infinity Ward games: (If you don’t believe me, play COD 2 to the end and then start COD3; it feels more like an expansion pack then a separate game.) Rumors have already begun swirling about whether the current IW team will co-operate with Activision for MW3. It’s safe to assume that West and Zampella will start a new firm, giving the rest of the team reason to walk away.
There is still plenty of room for failure, however, if Zampella and West somehow win the rights to “Modern Warfare”. While it is definitely the better option for gamers, the disruption from the lawsuit, the transfer from company to company and the influence of another producer would all effect the game in some way. That’s not to say that those changes would be bad, but such drastic environmental changes will have some kind of effect on the game. Ultimately though, the biggest issue with Modern Warfare 3 as imagined by West and Zampella is that, between the lawsuit and the actual development, it would take at least five years for the game to be made, probably more.
So what can we do, as gamers, to make sure that the Modern Warfare series remains the gold standard of the FPS genre? Absolutely nothing. All gamers can do is play, which is fine. It’s what we want to do. For now, the best indicator of how the series will fare will be Treyarch’s upcoming entry in the series. The new game is looking to distinguish itself, at least in terms of its story, by setting the game in Vietnam. Maybe the developer will step up to play and make a game that features original mechanics to match its new localé, maybe it won’t. The main point we can take away from this series of events is that, for better or worse, Infinity Ward, and by extension the COD series, will never be the same.