Who said the video game industry isn't like rap (which is in turn like wrestling)? With the news that five more Infinity Ward employees have resigned from the Modern Warfare 2 developer, the exodus is beginning to look positively Tiger Woodsian in its number of fucked and disgruntled parties. To refresh your memory: back in early March, Infinity Ward president Jason West and CTO Vince Zampella were unceremoniously sacked by parent company Activision for "breach of contract" and "insubordination." The two sued Activision for $36 million, Activision countersued... and West and Zampella got the last laugh by announcing that their new studio, Respawn, had partnered with Activision's blood rival, EA. Quelle scandal! Of course, whether coincidental or not, the trickle of IW employees leaving has become a flood, with at least seven leaving the company since West and Zampella announced Respawn.
As crazy as the saga's been, though, it's not the first time developers and publishers (or employees and developers, or employees' spouses and developers) have gotten into it. Gaming, like any industry, is hectic and incestuous, and the rumor-mill capabilities of the Internet mean that we're privy to a lot of the backbiting that goes on. So let's revisit some of our favorites, shall we?
"EA SPOUSE" VS. EA (2004)
Beef: In 2004, an anonymous blogger calling herself "EA Spouse" published a diatribe calling out EA for, among other things, forcing its employees to work 13-hour days, six days a week—and not surprisingly, the post set the internets ablaze. New York Times followed up to find class-action suits and widespread discontent. "EA Spouse" was ultimately exposed as Erin Hoffman, the wife of an EA developer who was a plaintiff in another class-action suit against EA. We have to say we're relieved; whenever someone anonymous says they're a woman, we can't help but assume it's just a fat dude wearing an diaper.
SAKAGUCHI VS. SONY (2007)
Beef: Well, not really, but we kinda loved it when Hironobu Sakaguchi, the architect of the Final Fantasy series, out-and-out said in 2007 that he wasn't interested in developing for the PS3, and that he just straight-up didn't like the father of the Playstation, Ken Kutaragi. Shots fired!
INFINITY WARD PRE-KO (2008)
Beef: A year and a half before the current shitstorm surrounding Infinity Ward, IW "community manager" and Twitter face Robert Bowling took issue with Activision manager Noah Heller—who as manager of the Call of Duty series was involved with COD: World at War—for mentioning COD4 more than he mentioned WaW while doing interviews about WaW. The term "Senior Super Douche" may have been thrown around in a blog post, the blog post may then have been taken down, but the damage was done. Words can hurt, Robert Bowling! And we're not even talking about playing MW2 with 13-year-olds who want to rape our grandmothers so hard they fly out the window.
Duke Nukem For Never (2009)
Beef: Quite possible the most over-chronicled vaporware of all time, DNF is the non-result of 12 years of work, two discarded physics engines, and untold millions of dollars. So when publisher Take-Two Interactive got tired of the...lack of product, it gave developers 3D Realms the old heave-ho. And then sued them. Thankfully, there's still enough Duke Nukem love out in the universe that Modern Warfare 2 players have gotten famous off judicious use of his catchphrases.
2K OR NOT 2K (2009)
Beef: When 2K Australia employee Jarrad Woods decided to resign, he created this incredible Flash game to spread the word. No, it's not beef, but it's fucking awesome.
ROCKSTAR REVOLUTION (2010)
Beef: While we were busy waiting for the May release of Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption, the employees of R*'s San Diego studio were apparently being used and abused on some non-union shit. In a January open letter published on Gamasutra, wives of the employees described an atmosphere of stress, exhaustion, and forced long hours. An ex-employee from the New York studio confirmed the accusations—which, if you ask us, kinda puts a cramp in the whole L.A.-Noire-coming-in-September thing.
DOWNSIZED'S REVENGE (2010)
Beef: When EA shut down Pandemic Studios last November, four of the nearly 200 laid-off Pandemic employees started Downsized Games—and the first Downsized release, the iPhone game BulleTrain, is packed with digs at their former publisher. From the game's evil megacorporation ("Elaborate Acquisitions") to the villainous character "JR" (EA's CEO is John Riccitello), it's a not-quite-valentine to the EA culture. Tongue-in-cheek, sure, but so are most 50 Cent songs, and look how mad those make people.