Following the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Infinity Ward bosses Vince Zampella and Jason West were unceremoniously ousted from the company for 'breaches of contract and insubordination', (what the BBC would call a fracas). What followed was a mass exodus of what was seen as Infinity Ward's core talent, the majority of which joined West and Zampella's new venture, Respawn Entertainment, who went on to launch the successful Titanfall with EA backing.
At least one of those early defectors has now returned to Infinity Ward. Todd Aldermann is now Infinity Ward's multiplayer project director after spending time with Respawn, League of Legends' dev Riot Games and his own studio Scary Mostro.
The re-hiring follows reports that Activision's flagship franchise may have peaked. Despite being an arguably better game, it looks as though Advanced Warfare failed to outsell Call of Duty: Ghosts, which is thus far MetaCritic's lowest ranked Call of Duty on Xbox platforms.
Speaking with Polygon, Aldermann noted his excitement to be working on Call of Duty again.
"The chance to come back to Infinity Ward and Call of Duty is something I didn't think would ever happen. It's been five years since I've been here, and a lot has changed. There are a lot of new faces and motivated people who want to make something great. It's a really cool game concept that I want to be a part of. I can't wait to see what we do with a three-year dev cycle. I'm excited to be back."
For me, the hiring is telling of internal concerns that Activision may be losing its primary cash cow. With Call of Duty sales down year on year, and facing increased shooter competition from Activision's arch-nemesis - EA, you have to expect some degree of anxiety on the part of Activision. Battlefield is not heading to annualization, but seems to be enjoying a more rapid release schedule, Titanfall II has been confirmed, and the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront enjoys a launch window (and thusly, a deep well of hype) with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
This is about hiring the best talent for the right position.
Infinity Ward head David Stohl spoke on Todd Aldermann's hiring, noting that "This is about hiring the best talent for the right position." It's no surprise to me that Activision may be looking to recapture the magic of Call of Duty 4, and that's a good thing. Competition leads to better products, and right now the competition is hotter than it's ever been.