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Most of Infinity Ward's top-paid staff jumped ship to Respawn Entertainment

Most of Infinity Ward's top-paid staff jumped ship to Respawn Entertainment

May 22, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

May 22, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

As the case between Activision and ex-Inifinity Ward leads Jason West and Vince Zampella continues to move forward, new documents have been made public revealing that nearly all of Infinity Ward's top paid staff in 2009 have since left for West and Zampella's current studio, Respawn Entertainment.

A 2009 email chain published by the LA Times [PDF] revealed a conversation between Activision employees Mike Griffith, Steven Aguilar, Bobby Kotick, and others, noting the salaries and bonuses of the 21 top-performing and highest-compensated Infinity Ward employees at the time.

Outside of West and Zampella, these employees were each scheduled to earn between $353,000 and $1.37 million in 2009, and Infinity Ward's projected bonus pool had grown to more than $73 million. Judging from the documents, it seems Activision's executives didn't want to write such hefty paychecks.

In the published email chain, Griffith notes, "we are paying way too many people way too much -- we need to find a way to put caps on our bonus payouts."

It seems Griffith got his wish, as a look at LinkedIn and the Respawn Entertainment website reveals that including West and Zampella, 18 of the 21 developers on Infinity Ward's top-paid employees list now work at Respawn.

Shortly after Activision fired West and Zampella in 2010, a number of these former employees sued the publisher for not paying their bonues and royalties, and it's easy to see why tensions became so high between Activision and these developers when you look at the amount of money at stake.

West and Zampella, for instance, were projected to earn a base salary of $420,000 in 2009, with bonuses totaling $3.1 million each -- in 2010, they were projected to earn bonuses as high as $13 million each.

Even the staff below the Infinity Ward heads were set to receive similarly impressive payouts. A lead software engineer, for instance, was on a salary of $145,700 in 2009, and was marked for a bonus of $600,000, with an additional $2.5 million in 2010.

By 2010, all 21 employees on Infinity Ward's top-compensated list were projected to receive a bonus of more than $1 million each.

Just last week, Activision awarded $42 million (on top of a previously reported $22 million) to these former employees, but not to West and Zampella, who still seek compensation for their unpaid bonuses. The trial for that case is currently scheduled for May 29.

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