If there was ever a reminder of just how little the video game industry is about fun and games these days, it came last week.
By now, we've heard about the shenanigans that went down between Activision and its "golden boy" developer, Infinity Ward, originator of the hit series Call of Duty.
If you missed it, here is the short version. IW studio president Jason West and CEO Vince Zampella were fired for insubordination and breach of contract last week by Activision. They had been quite vocal about protecting the CoD brand and its creative license for the last couple of years. So much so that IW had allowed the CoD: World at War (all games are based on WWII) series to be developed by other studios so they wouldn't be bothered with having to keep up Activision's very "corporate" quarterly release schedule and profit maximization.
Mind you, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2 have approached stratospheric levels of sales, in the tens of millions. One would think IW would be given the red-carpet treatment and probably expected to be treated as such. The problem is Activision, in my mind, not only wants those sales but it also wants the proverbial Call of Duty underwear and keychains as well. Since the firings, Activision has announced a number of CoD initiatives, including a third-person shooter and a massive multiplayer game based on the brand.
No doubt, this was a bit hard to accept for IW, which probably felt as if the series would soon be run into the ground. Not even Microsoft has been so brazen in its promotion of the Halo brand.
Now we have lawsuits by West and Zampella, an unhappy workplace at Infinity Ward (rumors abound about several key employees willing to follow West and Zampella to their next project), and a somewhat high level of suspicion toward Activision by hardcore CoD players, especially the Modern Warfare fans.
Here is the rub: The Modern Warfare series is so big and popular that the publisher can probably release a couple of disappointments in a row and still make money. Look no further than the Activision-published Guitar Hero for proof.
Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other good shooters out that are champing at the bit to take advantage of this fiasco. The shame of it is, it is just that, a fiasco, and one that didn't have to happen.
Everyone got paid in the CoD series (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has reportedly grossed more than a billion dollars) and even that wasn't enough to keep it from being possibly ruined.
A couple of philosophical discussions were floating around the Web about the Tiger Woods fallout and how it may affect his relationship with Electronic Arts, publisher of the golf game that bears his name and the gold standard for links play on console.
Would the game continue to be called Tiger Woods PGA Tour? Would the cover still bear his image?
Well, yes and yes - sort of.
The new Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 does indeed have Woods on the cover - with up-and-coming Irish golf star Rory McIlroy. Now the official line is that the new game has a Ryder Cup mode, and as Tiger leads the Americans, McIlroy leads the European outfit. So one feature in the game is so important that it alone deserves to keep Tiger Woods from being alone on the cover for the first time since 1998? Word?