The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010 - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 14 Old 05-01-10, 05:10 AM Thread Starter
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The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Shippin' Out April 25-May 1: Super Street Fighter IV, 2010 FIFA World Cup

Though 2010 isn't even half over, it's hard to imagine another week more jam-packed with news. On Monday, the US Supreme Court agreed to rule on a California law criminalizing the sale of violent games to minors. Less than 24 hours later, 38 current and former Infinity Ward employees sued Activision for $150 million-$625 million over breach of contract and unpaid Modern Warfare 2 royalties. Were that not enough, on Thursday, the game industry was floored by the announcement that Bungie had signed a 10-year deal with Activision to exclusively publish the Halo-maker's next big property. Finally, on Friday, Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops was revealed as a co-op shooter set in Vietnam, Cuba, and the Arctic.

Bungie, Activision lock down 10-year exclusivity
Bungie details, discusses landmark Activision deal
Supreme Court to hear California game law case
Infinity Ward employees sue Activision for $150 million-$625 million
Four more ex-Infinity Warders Respawn as exodus grows to 26
Sims 3 confirmed for PS3, 360, Wii, DS
Infinity Ward to close, expects analyst
Halo beta Reach-es until May 19
Two mystery Tom Clancy titles in development
Call of Duty: Black Ops deploying November 9
Valve opening Mac spigot May 12
Sony sued over PS3 Linux lockout

This was a rare travel-free week for the previews team, but there was hardly a lack of coverage for upcoming games on the site. The week started off big with a video tour of the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta and a first hands-on with Madden NFL 11. Later THQ dropped by the office to reveal the full roster for UFC Undisputed 2010. There were also previews for Rockstar’s open-world western Red Dead Redemption, Ron Gilbert’s ’Monkey Island meets Diablo" hybrid Deathspank, and a first look at Test Drive Unlimited 2. And finally, PC fans will want to check out our new Q&A with the lead designer of Guild Wars 2.

Halo: Reach Beta Video Tour
Madden NFL 11 First Look
UFC Undisputed 2010 Roster Reveal
Red Dead Redemption Hands-On
Deathspank Hands-On
Test Drive Unlimited 2 First Look
Guild Wars 2 Q&A
Spotlight On: Eve Online and Tyrannis

The reviews crew has had a fun and productive week in the run up to what's going to be an extremely busy month of May. Work on office favorites like Monster Hunter Tri and Super Street Fighter IV might have threatened to halt production on everything else, except that this week "everything else" included the likes of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, Dead to Rights: Retribution, and the PC version of Splinter Cell: Conviction.

2010 FIFA World Cup Review
After Burner Climax Review
Dead to Rights: Retribution Review
Monster Hunter Tri Review
Super Street Fighter IV Review
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction Review
3D Dot Game Heroes Review
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post #2 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 02:50 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Last week, Capcom launched its latest Monster Hunter game exclusively on the Wii. The publisher is once again the center of attention in stores this week, as it releases Super Street Fighter IV for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. However, unlike last week, there's plenty of competition for consumer dollars on the new release shelves.

Clearly, Adon should play for the Thailand soccer team.
Super Street Fighter IV sports 10 new fighters, new levels, and an overhauled online matchmaking system, but it will face stiff competition, starting with EA's 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa. Set for release on the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PSP, the game arrives more than a month ahead of the international tournament's proper start and features 199 teams and 10 licensed stadiums.

More action-oriented gamers might be interested in Dead to Rights: Retribution. The first new installment in the Namco Bandai canine-assisted cop series since 2005, Retribution has players reprising the role of Jack Slate in a noir-ish romp through the mean streets of Grant City.

Those are far from the only new options for gamers this week. On Sunday, Nintendo launches its newest hardware bundle, a white DSi system with Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story packed in. That will be followed by a pair of localized Japanese offerings for the PS3 and Xbox 360, as Aksys Games recounts the Record of Agarest War and Square Enix hopes the action adventure Nier goes far on the sales charts.

As for downloadable goodies, Dante's Inferno gets a new add-on in the form of The Trials of St. Lucia, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter arrives for the Xbox 360 and PC, and Tecmo Bowl: Throwback kicks off on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

For further details on the week's games, visit GameSpot's New Releases page. The full list of downloadable games on the PlayStation Store, Xbox Live Marketplace, and Wii Shop Channel will be revealed later in the week. Release dates are based on retailer listings and are subject to change.

April 26, 2010
White DSi bundle with Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

April 26, 2010
Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley--PSP--Natsume
The Whispered World--PC--Viva Media

April 27, 2010
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa--X360, PS3, Wii, PSP--EA Sports
Record of Agarest War--X360, PS3--Aksys Games
Dead to Rights: Retribution--X360, PS3--Namco Bandai Games America
Super Street Fighter IV--X360, PS3--Capcom
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction--PC--Ubisoft
NIER--PS3, X360--Square Enix
Horrible Histories: Ruthless Romans--WII, PC--Graffiti Entertainment
Free Running--WII--Graffiti Entertainment

April 28, 2010
Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter--X360, PC--Devolver Digital
Tecmo Bowl Throwback--X360--Tecmo

April 29, 2010
Tecmo Bowl Throwback--PS3--Tecmo Dante's Inferno: Trials of St. Lucia--PS3, X360--Electronic Arts
Kick---PS3--WHA Entertainment
Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West--PS3--Paradox Interactive
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post #3 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Suburban Seattle shop will remain independent, develop wholly owned new IP exclusively for Call of Duty publisher through 2020 on "all platforms" Microsoft retains Halo ownership; Sony says PS3 edition will be "Halo on steroids."

With a potentially $625 million lawsuit filed against Activision by Infinity Ward employees this week, it didn't seem possible events surrounding the publisher could get any more dramatic. Then, this morning, Activision announced it had locked down one of gaming's top developers for a decade-long exclusivity deal.

Expect to see the Activision logo next to this through 2020.
Under the terms of the agreement, the studio behind the heralded Halo series has allied with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 publisher for "an exclusive 10-year partnership to bring Bungie's next big action game universe to market." The deal will give Activision exclusive international publishing rights to all future Bungie games based on an unnamed new property through 2020.

According to Activision COO Thomas Tippl, Bungie's "new intellectual property" will be available on "all platforms"--including the PlayStation 3. Sony Computer Entertainment America corporate communications chief Patrick Seybold backed it up with a Twitter post, saying, "Marrying [Bungie's] creative minds and incredible talent to the power of PS3 will be like giving PS3 fans Halo on steroids."

The multiplatform move marks an end to the suburban Seattle studio's current Xbox 360 exclusivity. Since 2001, Bungie has effectively developed Halo games solely for Xbox platforms, farming out the PC port of Halo: Combat Evolved to Gearbox Software (Borderlands) and Halo 2 for Windows Vista to an internal Microsoft Game Studios team.

Activision Blizzard COO Thomas Tippl and Bungie president Harold Ryan.
Microsoft Game Studios had been Bungie's exclusive publisher, as Microsoft owned the studio until 2007. That year, the shop stunned the industry by breaking away from the Redmond, Washington-based software giant to become an independent shop. Reps for the studio have previously said that it is working on an all-new game and that Halo: Reach will be its last Halo title.

Microsoft continues to own the Halo IP, and recently formed an entire internal division, 343 Industries, to manage and develop it. Following the deal, it gave the following statement after the Activision deal was announced: "Our partnership with Bungie as a first-party developer for Xbox 360 remains unchanged, and right now we're deeply engaged with them on the development of Halo: Reach, which is poised to be the biggest game of 2010."

Today's announcement underlined the fact that Bungie will remain an independent studio and retain ownership and control of its new IP, with Activision providing publishing duties and (presumably) financing. Those terms sound eerily reminiscent of the arrangement struck between Electronic Arts and Respawn Entertainment, the indie studio recently formed by fired Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella.

To hear Tippl discuss the deal--and literally say "let's kick EA's !"--check out the video press below. (Video starts at 1:04.) To hear Bungie explain how the deal go down, read GameSpot's interview with community manager Brian Jarrard and writer/design director Joseph Staten
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post #4 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Halo makers Brian Jarrard and Joseph Staten explain why their studio chose the controversial publisher, potentially letting others work on their IP, and how far along development is on the studio's all-new franchise.

This morning, Halo: Reach developer Bungie stunned the gaming world with the announcement that it had signed an exclusive 10-year worldwide publishing and distribution agreement with Activision to handle its first original intellectual property since Halo. The announcement made a few things clear, most notable among them that formerly Microsoft-owned Bungie would be making games on multiple platforms once again.

Bungie's logo will be paired with Activision's through 2020.
However, the announcement left a wealth of questions unanswered. Speaking with GameSpot, Bungie community manager Brian Jarrard and writer and design director Joseph Staten addressed a number of key points, including concerns about Activision in light of the recent drama over Infinity Ward, some specific limitations of the deal, whether Bungie could make games for other publishers, and whether the publisher can have other studios create their own spin-offs in the as-yet-unnamed new universe.

GS: How long has this deal been in the works?

BJ: Bungie has actually been out there for a year straight now working hard, discussing our future with potential partners. But the Activision deal itself began in earnest about nine months ago. That got us through to the end of March when an initial term agreement was signed. And just this week the official formal, long-form contract was signed, and that was the impetus for us making the announcement today. It's officially official.

GS: How many potential publishers did you talk with before committing to go with Activision?

BJ: We pretty much talked to every prospective publisher out there. There's only a handful of publishers who could operate on the magnitude of what we're envisioning for our next project and a deal of this scope, with this unprecedented 10-year range. We got through the discussions and started focusing on things that were really important to us, [like] making sure Bungie still owned the IP. We still wanted to be an independent company and weren't looking to be absorbed or sell an ownership stake in the studio. [We wanted to make] sure we had creative control over our projects and our vision for this universe, and [tried] to find a partner that could bring us the largest possible audience across multiple platforms and devices. At the end of the day, Activision was the one partner where all these factors would align for us.

GS: So you knew you didn't want to go with a platform holder?

BJ: I wouldn't say we 100 percent knew, but it's clear from the beginning our intent as storytellers and people that create universes, we were looking for the largest audience we could get. We're excited by the prospect of having new avenues to reach out to fans, new touch points, new interesting engagements and interactions that wouldn't be limited to a single box.

GS: Activision's main business model calls for annual installments of its biggest franchises. Will Bungie be dramatically increasing its output, or will Activision be able to have other studios develop spin-offs in this universe?

BJ: To the second question, definitely no. Bungie does own this IP, so nothing's going to happen with it that we haven't agreed to. Who knows? Maybe there's some world where there's an interesting extension of the universe that we feel would be best handled by a different group with our oversight and that's a discussion we could certainly have, but that's something that we would drive.

Community manager Brian Jarrard (center) is probably celebrating tonight.
In terms of output, we're not going to get into the details of how many different titles this 10-year period will yield, but we're not being shoehorned into an annual release model that Activision might have for some of its other properties. They partnered with us based on this 10-year plan that we've collectively sat down and walked through. We have dates and real milestones, deliverables that we've both agreed to and believe in. Again, it's about us really shaping and realizing the creative vision we have for this universe, and Activision being the great partner to allow us to do that. That's what they're signing up for.

GS: Bungie's expertise is in developing for the Xbox 360, but Activision has already said it would be bringing games to "all platforms." Are you going to get up to speed on everything, or will other studios be helping to port your titles to some of the platforms you're less familiar with?

BJ: I would caveat "all platforms" to mean multiple platforms and devices. "All platforms" may be a little too broad of a comment to make, a little too dangerous. The reality is we're only going to go to platforms and devices that we think actually make sense for the types of experiences we want gamers to have and the interesting ways our universe can be extended onto those devices. I don't think that means every possible device known to man.

As far as development goes, we're going to obviously have some ramping up to do ourselves. We've been working exclusively on the Xbox [platforms] for about a decade now and we know it really well. But in order to get a bigger audience, we are going to have to broaden our horizons. Partially that's going to happen internally. We've grown a lot as a studio and hired a lot of great talent. We have a really deep, seasoned bench of engineering staff. Thankfully one of the other benefits of Activision is that they do have a lot of expertise on a lot of different platforms. They'll have resources and people that will be available to us as well to help us make the right decisions.

Though Bungie says it's not tired of making Halo games, Halo: Reach will be its last.
GS: The popular narrative is that Bungie left Microsoft because it was tired of making Halo games for 10 straight years and wanted to try something new. If that has any truth to it, why jump right into a deal that will have you making games based on this new IP for 10 straight years?

JS: I think like a lot of popular myths, that one just isn't true. I was the creative director on [Halo 3] ODST, and we wouldn't have done that game if we weren't excited about telling that story. We wouldn't have done Reach if we weren't excited about telling this great new sort of prequel to all the Halo games we made. When you get a chance to play the beta and see the stuff we're announcing at E3 and all the Reach stuff that's going to happen over the summer, I think it's obvious that we at Bungie are passionate and excited about all the games we make.

I think the reason we became an independent company back in 2007 was we wanted to be independent. We wanted to chart our own future. We wanted to own our creations. That was a really important thing to us. And we wanted to reach as broad an audience as possible, and the path forward wasn't as being an internal Microsoft first-party studio. Where we are today is the logical extension of that journey we started on in 2007, and it really had nothing to do with us being tired of Halo, which frankly, we aren't.

GS: Could Bungie still make games using different IP for other publishers?

BJ: I guess it's conceivable that we could have those discussions. But the reality is that the type of project we are building for the next 10 years, the ambition we're aiming for and the types of stories we want to tell, it's really going to take the might of our entire team to do it right. I think Bungie's at its best when we're all united with a single vision and all of our best talent is working together on the same project. So that's certainly our plan right now.

GS: I'm sure a lot of Bungie fans are a bit nervous about this announcement given what has happened between Activision and Infinity Ward lately. As the community manager, Brian, how are you reassuring your fans that this deal won't wind up being a bad thing?

BJ: Ultimately there's only so much we can say. At the end of the day, I would definitely tell our fans to hang in there and eventually the game will speak for itself. Many people said the same thing 10 years ago when Microsoft acquired Bungie, that, "That was it. That was the end of Bungie." I think we actually weathered that pretty well and are even better because of it. In this new partnership we're going into, we actually have even more freedom and creative control and ability to do what Bungie does best. And that's make awesome games and engaging universes and compelling stories. We're better poised now to do more than we've ever been able to do before.

People will probably continue to be skeptical based on things they've read online, but clearly we would not have signed a deal that we felt was in any way not in our best interests: Making sure that we own our own IP, that we have the creative control to drive the decision-making process for our own creative vision, and that we're still fully independent. That should put a lot of people at ease right away if they stop to think about what that means.

GS: It sounds like the scope of this new IP is pretty grand. How long has the idea for this new IP been kicking around? Is it something that you've been fleshing out and turning over in your heads for years and years, or is it a more recent creation?

JS: Well, [Bungie cofounder and creative director] Jason Jones has been thinking about the next project he'd like to work on for a number of years now. As early as 2007, he got a core team of people together--a very, very small team--and has been cooking up different ideas. But it's only been in the last year or so that those ideas have crystallized to the point that we can take them out to different publishers and really shop those ideas around. It's safe to say we're really in "preproduction" mode right now. We've got really good plans, we know our path for the next 10 years. We're looking at the dates that are coming up earliest, and we're aligning everybody around the first stories we really want to tell.

As soon as the team rolls off of Reach--and the vast majority of people at Bungie are working on Reach--the core team of which I'm a part really needs to be ready for everybody to join us. So we're absolutely making real plans and making real progress.

GS: Joseph, in terms of writing, what do you see as the key characteristics that would be in any new game the studio makes? What makes a Bungie game a Bungie game?

Activision COO Thomas Tippl and Bungie president Harold Ryan.
JS: I'd like to think we create universes where we tell lots of different stories that appeal to lots of different people. We're a company that doesn't just think about a single game and moving on to the next one. We try to take a long view, and that's a process we've developed over the last 10 years.

To be completely honest, when we were writing the first Halo game for the Xbox 1 launch, we had no idea there was going to be a Halo: Reach or ODST or Halo 3 or Halo 2. We didn't have that long view. So as someone who's in charge of story and writing at Bungie, it's a tremendous luxury but also a very daunting challenge to be able to sit down today and really map out the specific stories we might want to tell five years from now, seven years from now, eight years from now. But that's what I'm doing right now, and that's really wonderful. It's absolutely a different process, but it's so much better than the way we started working 10 years ago when we were young and not quite as experienced.

GS: Well that way seemed to work out pretty well for you.

JS: There were ups and downs for sure, and Bungie emerged in 2007 with a lot of good scars. We learned a lot of hard lessons and continued to do them, but it's really terrific to be able to look around the office and see the same guys that were there 10 years ago working on Halo. We're all still here, but even better, we've still got fire in our bellies and ample creative ideas to take us 10 years and beyond. It's an extremely exciting time to be a part of Bungie.

GS: In recent years, Bungie, the Infinity Ward guys, and Will Wright have all left massive corporate entities to flex their own creative muscle and immediately re-signed deals with massive corporate entities that were more favorable. Are these unique cases, or do you think creators are getting more control in the industry across the board?

JS: Without sounding too high and mighty, there aren't many studios that could get a deal like the deal that we got. You talk about Bungie, you talk about Will Wright… We worked very hard for it, don't get me wrong, but we feel extremely fortunate that we're in this position to have the deal we do. Any creative person, any game development studio would of course want to own their own creative ideas and be as independent as possible. But the nature of the business is such that when you're working on a universe like the one we're planning--that's so broad in scope and has so many opportunities for great stories--you kind of need to sign with someone that knows how to handle that in the marketplace. Activision is the world's biggest publisher for a reason. They have a tremendous amount of expertise and marketing know-how and really can help us reach a broad audience. We certainly needed a partner to help us realize this vision, and Activision is a great partner.

BJ: Somebody asked me earlier why we wouldn't just self-publish, but that's not the business we're in. That's not the core competency of our studio. The minute we start having to divert resources and energy to thinking about how we get a box on a shelf in Europe, that's no longer Bungie. There's always going to be a need for some sort of umbrella for creative people to do what they do best and not have to worry about the business aspects of taking that great game and getting an audience for it.

GS: When can gamers expect to have the wraps taken off this new project?

BJ: Well they shouldn't hold their breath.

JS: They should play the Reach beta!

BJ: Clearly it's important to us, and the reason we wanted to hurry and make this announcement after the deal was signed was to get it out of the way. We're excited about it and it's out there now, but we want to focus on Reach. We still have a ways to go until launch. The beta starts on Monday. We don't want to distract or overshadow any of the great work that's being done on Reach. That's going to be our priority for the rest of the year. We'll definitely look forward to sharing more information, but it's going to be a little while. Reach is our focus right now.
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post #5 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 03:00 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Nation's highest body to review Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals' dismissal of law that would prohibit sale of games to minors.

Last February, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision that California's law preventing the sale of violent video games to minors was unconstitutional. According to the appeals-court ruling, bill AB1179, signed into California law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, violated the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech.

California's game bill is headed to the US Supreme Court.
In May, the California government appealed the court's decision on the law, which was penned by California State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who was a child psychologist before entering public service. Today, the US Supreme Court--the country's highest legal body--agreed to hear the case, officially titled Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, v. Entertainment Merchants Association. The latter is a lobby for the US home entertainment industry and was formed by the merger of the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) and the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) in 2006.

Though it is unclear exactly when the case will be heard, both sides of the debate wasted no time in sounding off on the court's decision. "I am very pleased that the Supreme Court has accepted our case to help protect children from the harmful effects of excessively violent, interactive video games," said Yee in a statement. "The Supreme Court has never heard a case dealing with violent video games. I am hopeful that the high court will determine our law to be Constitutional, but regardless, states are now certain to receive direction on how to proceed with this important issue."

Equally vocal was Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, the lobby that represents most major game publishers. "Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional," he declared in a statement. "Research shows that the public agrees, video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies, and music."

Both Yee and Gallagher made reference to the court's ruling in the case of the US v. Stevens last week. In an 8 to 1 decision, the court threw out the three-year prison sentence of Robert Stevens, who had been convicted under a law banning videos of animal cruelty. (In this case, the offending material was dog-fighting videos.) The law had been enacted as a response to so-called "crush videos," in which small animals are stomped to death in sadomasochistic sexual rituals.

"As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few 'historic and traditional categories' that are 'well defined and narrowly limited,'" said Gallagher. "We are hopeful that the Court will reject California's invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment."

Yee took a more legalistic tack when weighing in on the case. "Last week, the high court struck down a law, in United States v. Stevens, that would have banned the sale of media that depicts animal cruelty, however, the Court said that such a law may be constitutional if it were more narrowly tailored. California's violent video game [law] is narrowly tailored and focuses only on the sale of such ultraviolent video games to children, whereas the Stevens case banned the sale of animal cruelty films to all individuals. In addition, California's law is dealing with an interactive media versus a passive media in the animal cruelty case."
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post #6 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 03:08 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Group of 38 developers allege publisher withheld $75 million-$125 million in royalties, bonuses, and stock options related to Modern Warfare 2 sales and technology during Q1 2010; massive punitive payout also sought; Activision says case "without merit."

Following Activision's dismissal of Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in March, the two executives responded with a $36 million lawsuit. Weeks later, Activision responded in kind, filing a countersuit accusing the two developers of being "self-serving schemers" trying to set up a new studio with the help of an unnamed Northern California publisher.

This is going to get ugly…
Now, two weeks after West and Zampella announced the formation of independent studio Respawn Entertainment with seed money from Electronic Arts, a third lawsuit has been filed by members of the Infinity Ward rank-and-file. The legal action, which has been obtained by GameSpot, shows 38 members of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 team are now suing Activision, accusing the publisher of "breach of contract," "breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing," "unjust enrichment," and "violation of the California labor code."

Specifically, the 38 current and former Infinity Ward staffers are claiming the publisher only paid out $28 million of a $118 million bonus pool it had accumulated during the fourth quarter of last year. Excluding the share of that pool that was to be paid West and Zampella, the suit says the employees are entitled to at least $82 million. It also claims that Activision has withheld $40 million to $55 million in fourth-quarter Modern Warfare 2 royalties it was due to pay out to ensure delivery of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

As of January 13, Modern Warfare 2 had grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide and is on record as being the biggest entertainment launch in history. The suit contends that Activision made a profit of at least $900 million off the game by the end of last year.

Overall, the group of 38 wants $75 million to $125 million in compensatory damages for unpaid royalties, bonuses, stock options, and technology-related payments it claims Activision withheld. It is also seeking punitive damages of between $75 million and $500 million as a result of Activision's withholding of the bonuses, which the suit says was tantamount to holding "employees hostage so that Activision could reap the benefit of the completion of Modern Warfare 3."

However, the legal filing contends that the publisher violated California state labor law by not paying out bonuses and any other owed monies within 72 hours of the termination of their employment. Since West and Zampella's dismissal, at least 26 Infinity Ward staffers have left the Encino, California-based studio. Among the employees named in the suit who have since jumped ship to Respawn are lead designer Todd Alderman, lead software engineer Francesco Gigliotti, lead environment artist Chris Cherubini, lead animator John Paul Messerly, lead animator Mark Grigsby, senior software engineer Chris Lambert, senior level designer Jason McCord, senior artist Ryan Lastimosa, and game designer Brent McLeod.

Representatives of an external PR company employed by Activision quickly rebutted the allegations in the new lawsuit. "Activision believes the action is without merit," said the rep. "Activision retains the discretion to determine the amount and the schedule of bonus payments for MW2 and has acted consistent with its rights and the law at all times. We look forward to getting judicial confirmation that our position is right."
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post #7 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 03:10 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

At least nine members of Modern Warfare 2 team now at former bosses' indie studio; reports say 13 artists, engineers, designers, and HR recruiters left studio in past five days.

Two weeks ago, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said that Infinity Ward could lose up to 31 employees and still make a "competitive product." Now, according to gaming blog Kotaku, the number of resignations from the studio following Activision's firing of founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in March stands at 26--just five short of Pachter's magic number. Of those, 13 staffers have reportedly submitted resignations in just the past five days.

The Infinity Ward exodus appears to be accelerating.
The LinkedIn profiles of four of the 13 show that they have joined West and Zampella at their new independent studio, Respawn Entertainment. Senior software engineer Chris Lambert, senior level designer Jason McCord, senior artist Ryan Lastimosa, and game designer Brent McLeod are now officially employed by the studio, which is setting up shop in the same area of Los Angeles as Infinity Ward.

The quartet joins top members of the Modern Warfare 2 team already at Respawn, which is being bankrolled by Electronic Arts as an advance on revenues from its first game, to be published under the EA Partners program. Lead designer Todd Alderman, lead software engineer Francesco Gigliotti, lead environment artist Chris Cherubini, lead animator John Paul Messerly, and lead animator Mark Grigsby all got on board the startup in the two weeks after West and Zampella announced its existence.

LinkedIn profiles also confirm six more now-ex-Infinity Ward employees as no longer being with the company. Senior artist Brad Allen, software engineer Robert Field, veteran designer Preston Glenn, designer Chad Grenier, and Mohammad Alavi all now list their Infinity Ward employment as ending in April 2010. They were preceded out the door by the final Modern Warfare 2 lead designers a fortnight ago.

The last confirmed departure may prove one of the most troublesome for Activision in its efforts to stem the Infinity Ward exodus. Kristin Cotterell, who oversaw "all HR and recruiting for Infinity Ward," including the hiring in "all departments including art, animation, design, software engineering, admin, and production," has also left the studio. In an interview with GameSpot earlier this month, West and Zampella said that their immediate focus was to build up a team as quickly as possible--a task that Cotterell would be ideally suited for.
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post #8 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 03:13 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Two months after EA lists the Sims 3 as coming to consoles and handhelds, the company officially unveils non-PC/Mac versions of ultra successful sim game.

As in real life, romantics will find it challenging to find love.
In February, Electronic Arts laid out its release slate for the coming year. At the end of the list of games scheduled as coming in the October-December quarter was "The Sims 3 on Console Title TBA (consoles, handhelds)." The schedule backed up reports that initially surfaced in 2006 that the Sims series was coming to consoles. It also made perfect business sense, as the Sims 3 has sold over 4.5 million units to date on the PC and Mac, making it the top PC game of 2009.

Today, EA officially announced that the Sims 3 will ship for the DS, Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 this fall. Published under the EA Play label, the game will sport many of the same customization and character creation options as the PC edition of the game, as well as some new features. These include karma powers, which players can use to give their in-game incarnations instant luck--be it good or bad.

Sadists can taunt starving sims with an out-of-reach refrigerator.
The PS3 and 360 editions of the game will also feature an online exchange system where players can share content they've created with others. The two versions will feature online integration with Facebook as well, allowing them to broadcast their achievements and trophies on the social networking service.

On the Wii, the Sims 3 will be set in a beach town and will have some adventure elements, including quests. The game will have the requisite traits, careers, and life goals, and players will be able to challenge each other in a new "Life Moments" mode.

Virtual BBQs will also be playable.
Finally, the DS version of the game will let players use the handheld's stylus as a design tool to customize physical objects, such as houses and furniture. The handheld can also be used to tailor sims' clothes and alter their physical features and hairstyles. It will sport a story mode as well, which puts players in charge of various members of a family as they go through life.
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post #9 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 03:14 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Janco Partners' Mike Hickey says Modern Warfare 2 developer likely to be closed after next map pack; Modern Warfare 3 duties to be split between two other studios.

Earlier this month, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter weighed in on the departure of about a dozen employees from Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 developer, Infinity Ward. He said the studio could lose 20 more and the publisher would just replace them and still put out a competitive product. One of Pachter's colleagues today expressed a more dire appraisal of the situation.

A beautiful house is turned into a smoldering pile of burned wreckage in Modern Warfare 2.
In a note to investors, Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey said the Infinity Ward departures "have created meaningful uncertainty around the future of their Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise," not to mention the studio itself. Hickey expects that Activision will shutter the studio entirely after the next map pack add-on for Modern Warfare 2 is released.

As for the follow-up, Hickey said development on Modern Warfare 3 would be split between two studios "not historically tied to the franchise." When that game does arrive, Hickey doesn't think it will quite live up to the blockbuster sales of its predecessor. He is expecting a fourth-quarter 2011 release of the game to bring in $738 million by the year's end, where Modern Warfare 2's sales total for roughly the same period was about $1 billion.

Infinity Ward has been the center of turmoil within Activision since last month, when the publisher fired studio cofounders Jason West and Vince Zampella. They sued the company, which sued back, alleging that the pair had been plotting to start a new studio with chief Activision rival Electronic Arts. Within weeks of their termination, West and Zampella started a new studio with chief Activision rival Electronic Arts. A number of Infinity Ward developers jumped ship to join the new studio, dubbed Respawn Entertainment, while others simply resigned. This week, a group of 38 former and current Infinity Ward developers sued Activision for as much as $625 million, alleging the publisher had been withholding royalty and bonus payments due them.
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post #10 of 14 Old 05-02-10, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
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Re: The Last Word: April 26-30, 2010

Early play test of Bungie's next sci-fi shooter to feature new arena mode and game types, free XBL Avatar hoodie for participants; Xbox Live Silver members able to check it out May 14-17.

Halo fans have known the Halo: Reach beta's May 3 start date for months, but Microsoft had been less than definitive about how long the first taste of the upcoming Bungie-developer shooter's multiplayer would last. Today the company revealed a few more details about the beta, including its May 19 termination date.

It's nice to know painted skulls on headgear will still be the height of battlefield fashion in the far-flung future.
For the half-month that gamers have access to the Halo: Reach beta (through the Halo 3: ODST game disc), players will get to test a variety of new play types and features. At launch, the beta will include three different rotations for players to jump into.

While a variety of new and old match types will be covered on the rotations, they will feature the game's new four-on-four team Deathmatch Arena mode. Starting on May 7, Bungie will add a fourth playlist focusing on large-scale Spartan vs. Elite matches and finally introduce the "Generator Defense" match type into the battles on May 14.

For those intimidated by the new modes and features, Microsoft will host a video walk-through for the beta, hosted by actress Aisha Tyler (from FX's Archer). Like the beta itself, that clip will be accessible through the Halo 3: ODST disc.

For most of the beta, access will be limited to Xbox Live Gold subscribers, as is typical for multiplayer gameplay on the Xbox 360. However, Xbox Live Silver members will get a chance to play the Reach beta (as well as Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST) online for free from 9 a.m. PDT on May 14 through 9 a.m. PDT on May 17. Additionally, all players who finish a full game in the Halo: Reach beta will be able to claim free hoodies for their XBL Avatars by going to the Halo Waypoint area of Xbox Live and accessing their career stats.

The full version of Halo: Reach is set for launch this fall.
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