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On Infinity Ward Royalties

Kotaku has a speculative article on why we have not heard about an exodus from Infinity Ward following the firing of Infinity Ward bosses Vince Zampella and Jason West and the subsequent lawsuit over royalties, saying "sources" tell them royalties are being withheld from the developers of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. They explain that salaries at Infinity Ward are "regular," if not "low," but that bonuses are "ridiculous" to compensate. They've been told that Activision is delaying paying royalties to employees to keep them at the company, and that "morale at Infinity Ward is reportedly extremely low." Thanks nin.

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25. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 13, 2010, 15:28 Longswd
 
As much as I want Diablo III, I've pretty much decided at this point I'm going to have to pass on it (and any other Activision/Blizzard game). Bobby Kotick is one evil motherfucker and I do not wish to put anymore money into his coffers.

Pirating might be an option, but I don't do that unless there's no demo and if I like it I buy it (yes, really). I've been been burned too many times with shitty games to buy w/o trying now.

I wish to God there was some way for Blizzard to break free of Activision.

 
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24. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 18:55 Paketep
 
BobBob wrote on Mar 12, 2010, 14:53:
If it wasn't for the lack of dedicated servers, I'm not sure I'd really care about any of this. At this point I'm not sure whose side to take, considering the guys who got fired were anti-dedicated servers.

Oh, me, I'm pretty sure of which side to take: neither.

Fuck Kotick for his methods and for the destruction he's causing at Acti, and fuck West and Zampella for opening a very dangerous door that has hurt (and will hurt even more) PC gaming: no LAN, no dedis, no modding, no mapping, almost no game.

I'd hope they never get those royalties if it wasn't because that'd mean that Kotick would get to keep them.
 
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23. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 16:08 DG
 
Pannad wrote on Mar 12, 2010, 14:19:
I don't know if it's the same in the US, but in the UK the financial year ends 31 March, and that's when bonuses are paid.
Usually - it's the most common year-end in UK, but a company can choose whatever it pleases. It can also choose to pay bonuses whenever they like, though yeah often most bonuses are linked to company performance so is usually either around a month after the year-end (to give time to do the sums) or shortly before 5th April (so it catches the end of the personal tax year: bonuses at the beginning tends to result in employees overpaying tax in the first half of the year due to the PAYE system using averages).

A quick Googling suggests Activision's previous year-end was 31 December 2009.

As for whether the employees should quit, it depends. Firstly whether they are contracted or not - "royalties" suggests the employees have a contractual right which is unavoidable regardless of what they do. Quit and still get the bonus. However most likely IMO the source is technically inaccurate and it's not a true 'royalty'.

Bonuses may be part of the employment contract, in which case they may be owed the bonus regardless. BUT it's common to have a clause saying you only get your bonus if you're with the company when it becomes due. Since Acti year end is 31/12/09, the 2009 bonus conditions presumably have been met and therefore the obligation crystallises and Acti have to pay it. BUUUUT... They probably sold a ton of games in 2010 so quitting now forgoes that bonus.

If there's nothing in the contract at all about bonuses, it's just something that is regularly done, you'd be forgiven for assuming Activision doesn't have to pay it. But actually if it happens regularly it can become a constructive obligation - employer has to pay it because the employee had very good reason to expect it.
 
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22. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 15:00 Beamer
 
Either way, this studio is dead...

Not entirely.
My guess is that they were paid their 2009 bonus already, but it didn't include the year-end sales as accounting wasn't complete on it.
Regardless, a certain percentage of people are going to leave the studio. I'd also guess this is a devastating amount. However, some will stay. Why? Because it's the studio in charge of the #1 franchise out there and there are suddenly huge leadership gaps. It's a chance for people that had been a few rungs down the chain of command to get instant promotions and have very clear influence on the way the game and studio go. For some this opportunity will be impossible to pass down. For many, many others, that type of responsibility is a hassle and they just want to go somewhere to make fun games with fun people.

Within 2 or 3 years we'll be hearing about some new, awesome FPS franchise from an unknown studio shortly before finding out that it's made from the majority, if not all of the people from IW.

I'd be curious to see how IW's mindshare does without the CD:MW label. To be honest, they caught lightning in a bottle there. Right game, right time. I think even the most diehard fans admit there are serious flaws. The plot makes no sense and is very poorly delivered (very), AI is wonky, death comes too often with people often forced to repeat the same 30 second part of the game over a dozen times due to fluke bullets, enemies infinitely respawn, etc. There are many, many shoddy decisions in the game. Fortunately there were many very, very good ones, almost all centered in multiplayer.

I think, right now, there's a huge amount of questioning in the industry over whether the fans will follow the IP, the developer, or neither. Where are the loyalties? Will a non-Bungie Halo game sell as well? Will a non-Halo Bungie game sell well (I'd guess yes, Bungie has done a masterful job of branding themselves.) Will a non-GoW Epic game dominate? Same here. If you take MW from IW do they still break 5 million units sold? With WoW they've got some evidence that title is enough to sell, but I wouldn't call it great evidence. Beyond this, I'm a firm believer that title is a huge influence. Give a game a great name and it'll sell. Give it a bad one and it'll die.
It's interesting, though. Of the controllable, what's most important:
-Quality
-Pedigree
-Legacy
-Title
-Marketing
 
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21. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 14:53 BobBob
 
If it wasn't for the lack of dedicated servers, I'm not sure I'd really care about any of this. At this point I'm not sure whose side to take, considering the guys who got fired were anti-dedicated servers.  
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20. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 14:49 Ruffiana
 
I don't know if it's the same in the US, but in the UK the financial year ends 31 March, and that's when bonuses are paid.

If it's the same in the US, Activision have 2 weeks to make their devs want to stay.

Either way, this studio is dead...if they want to leave, and are only staying for the royalties.

If they're just hanging out for the big payoff, then they're just as likely to hang out for another full year to get the most of the royalties their owed. If morale is already low, it's only going to get lower as more and more people start peeling away from the company and the ones who remain are only there to collect the next royalty payment before heading out. IW will not be producing top quality games anymore, unless they just happen to get extremely lucky and bring in a whole new regiment of extremely talented, but incredibly naive talent.

I fully expect that within a year, there will be a new developer, founded by Vince and Jason, working on establishing a new IP for some publisher who will slowly collect ex-IW employees as they get their royalty payouts and trickle out of IW. Within 2 or 3 years we'll be hearing about some new, awesome FPS franchise from an unknown studio shortly before finding out that it's made from the majority, if not all of the people from IW.

Hopefully, they'll be a bit smarter about making their deals this time. They have a very solid track record, probably one of the most solid in the industry for creating incredibly well selling games and new franchises. In an ideal world, that would be enough, but in the real business world publishers are stupid and just as just as likely to put these guys over a barrel because they can...ultimately leading to a repeat of what's going on now down the line.
 
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19. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 14:21 Tom
 
If Activision is violating employment contracts and/or the law, I hope the employees settle or sue and both sides get what's coming to them. My comment was aimed at criticism of businesses operating within the realm of 1) what employees signed up for, and 2) what is legal.

I don't know the situation at Activision/IW but if I worked hard on building a valuable franchise only to get screwed over in the end, I would focus the blame on not only Activision but also in large part to whoever was responsible for selling IW to them. And if I stuck around for too long under poor conditions post-sale, I would also blame myself.
 
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18. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 14:19 Pannad
 
I don't know if it's the same in the US, but in the UK the financial year ends 31 March, and that's when bonuses are paid.

If it's the same in the US, Activision have 2 weeks to make their devs want to stay.
 
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17. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 13:43 Verno
 
Performance bonuses will usually be described in the employment contract, that's how its different from "usual business". You can't withhold performance bonuses just because you're worried your employee might leave. It's one thing if they're within their deadlines outlined in the contract. It's a totally different matter if they are withholding money they owe past the negotiated timetable.

Let's hope Activision isn't entirely staffed with idiots like Kotick and this is a case of the former. I doubt employees will be very motivated to work if it's the latter.
 
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16. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 13:20 Tom
 
How is this any different from standard business? The business owner commits the money, organizes things, takes the risks, and reaps the rewards. Employees are pretty much free to leave at any time without losing out on huge investments they've made.

I see this over and over again. People always focus on how the loot is divided up and how unfair it is, while glossing over what the process was for generating that loot and who did what to make it happen.

If developers want to be treated "fairly", why don't they stay independent and make their own fate instead of selling out to these behemoths?
 
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15. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 13:05 siapnar
 
Totally agree Tumbler, it's pathetic how some developers are treated these days.  
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14. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 13:00 Tumbler
 
Cant they legally go after them if they are withholding the money?

Why would you even ask this? Is it not painfully obvious that Activision is doing everything they can to stop the complete implosion of IW after firing those 2? Hell even before firing those 2. Announcing to share holders that you just lost your best studio, Infinity Ward, would MASSACRE your stock prices. At this point the stock price seems to suggest that they've convinced people that things will be ok without the heads of IW but if that studio goes down there will be no way to pretend that the franchise CoD will be the money maker it was in the past.

It's depressing to see the people responsible for a game like MW and MW2 be treated so poorly. This industry seems like it's in dire need of unions, dev studio's seem to be America's Sweatshops, pouring massive amounts of man hours and talent into products that earn them nothing. All the money is held hostage at the publishers. And since everything made is virtual in a sense, there is no security in being the guy behind our favorite marine soldier, or the voice of our favorite villain. It's all something that can be easily moved to another cog in the system. It's terribly unfair and this isn't going to change unless development studio's stop operating in a "every man for himself" mode.
 
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13. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 12:59 BobBob
 
I wonder if any of the current IW employees used to work at the post office.  
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12. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 12:50 Beamer
 
Thats pretty much how EA ran it when I worked for them.

Every industry that isn't commission-based-sales will, and even with commission-based-sales it's actually just that bonuses come more regularly.

This probably locks them in for about another year. Activision is probably hoping that, by then, the morale issues are forgotten and the ship has managed to right itself.
More likely they'll be toiling half-heartedly for that year, making nothing as intensely as they'd been had they felt fully dedicated. Meanwhile Vince and Jason are being given time to find funds and set up shop convincingly, so that leaving IW and going there will feel like less of a gamble.
 
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11. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 12:12 Parallax Abstraction
 
Ravor wrote on Mar 12, 2010, 10:57:
Didn't they announced the other week that they've got 25 million unique accounts, so I'd assume that means they've sold 25 million copies?

A certain number of those probably include people on consoles playing either used or borrowed copies of the game. I believe the last sales milestone they reported was 15M copies which is still absolutely insane which 1M is considered a hit.
 
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10. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 12:11 Wolfen
 
Beamer wrote on Mar 12, 2010, 11:38:
What's more important to note is that bonuses tend to always be paid at the same time of year, regardless of when the product comes out. As many professionals said when this first happened, there's likely nothing weird about the bonus not yet being paid, it's just waiting for end-of-year, or whenever the bonus time happens to be. And, in most companies, if you leave before then you forfeit your bonus.

Standard in all industries.

Thats pretty much how EA ran it when I worked for them.
 
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9. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 11:56 Hyatus
 
Ravor wrote on Mar 12, 2010, 10:57:
Would that then mean that
25,000,000 x 60$ per copy = 1,500,000,000

That number is pretty fucking ridiculous if it's at all accurate..

Activision probably gets less than half for each sale, but yeah, the
number is still pretty huge.
 
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8. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 11:51 MMORPGHoD
 
If there's any truth to it I'm sure their state of California will find a way to go after them too, as they're desperate for money.  
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7. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 11:38 Beamer
 
What's more important to note is that bonuses tend to always be paid at the same time of year, regardless of when the product comes out. As many professionals said when this first happened, there's likely nothing weird about the bonus not yet being paid, it's just waiting for end-of-year, or whenever the bonus time happens to be. And, in most companies, if you leave before then you forfeit your bonus.

Standard in all industries.
 
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6. Re: On Infinity Ward Royalties Mar 12, 2010, 11:32 nin
 
It is important to note that this is a rumor.






It's also important to note that this is exactly the kind of thing Bobby Cocktick would be expected to do.

 
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