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Allegorical Theater

Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2010-12-24 11:09:29

Merry Christmas!

On the eve of our Saviour's birth, as we prepare love and gifts for one another, powerful entities vie with one another for the vast plunder reaped from our meager wallets.

For those of you who need the crib notes for today's comic strip, Wedge represents Activision and Tina is the analog for West and Zampella, the founders of Infinity Ward. The marriage between these developers and the mega-publisher produced the transcendent Call of Duty franchise. Unfortunately, the relationship grew increasingly rocky. Activision brought Treyarch (Call of Duty 3, World at War, Black Ops) into their bed, and followed that up by withholding contractually promised royalty payments.

At some point during these testy conflicts, Tina had a meeting with Biggs (Electronic Arts), who offered her the promise of a healthier relationship. Wedge got wind of this, and fired her. That's when the knives (lawyers) came out. There is currently litigation flying in every which direction. Actually, now that I consider this allegory, Tina should've had a knife as well. She's suing Activision for royalties and the rights to Modern Warfare, and Wedge is countersuing for insubordination* and breach of contract, and stabbing at Biggs in the same lawsuit for good measure. They're tossing around numbers like FOUR HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. There's a lot at stake here.

So who suffers most in divorce proceedings? The children. Wedge is putting Call of Duty to work in a sweatshop, as Treyarch, Sledgehammer, and the smoldering remains of Infinity Ward are busy at work on new titles. Tina and EA are starting from scratch, hoping to recapture the magic (to add dramatic irony, before Activision, West/Zampella originally started with EA, where they were responsible for the heyday of the Medal of Honor series).

It's hard to shake the feeling that they've produced the golden child in Modern Warfare, and that any other half-siblings simply won't measure up. Black Ops was surprisingly playable, but anything with the Call of Duty name moving forward, will likely be sad attempts to imitate their elder brother. As for Modern Warfare, that child has been irrevocably damaged with mommy and daddy issues. Not only does Modern Warfare 3 have to deal with abandonment and anger issues, the custody battle is still pending.

Vargas and the Squishy fellows often ask me what shooters are on the horizon for us good enough to play together. What they don't realize is that they're asking what Call of Duty games are on the horizon for us good enough to play together. They don't even listen when I mention solid alternatives like Battlefield: Bad Company, or God forbid, Halo. They want that very specific, razor sharp, fast paced (twitchy, yet with just enough room for tactical play) military shooter. Sadly, that kid has run away from home and is selling illegal goods and/or services on the street.

We need a new studio to step up and deliver.

*Amusingly, "Insubordinate Games" was considered as a name for West/Zampella's new studio with EA. This would've been a far superior name to "Respawn Entertainment".

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