Activision fighting fit despite studio spat

Games company Activision Blizzard reckons it can shrug off the studio revolt by the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 team.

Bobby Kotick, the firm's chief executive, was in swaggering mood in announcing the company results last week, claiming that the next instalment of the Call of Duty franchise – Black Ops – would outsell Halo: Reach when the two go head to head in the autumn.

The company reported revenue of $714 million, beating expectations by some margin. Activision thanked its lucky stars for "strong global consumer demand" for Call of Duty, while Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft continued to add to the company's bottom line.

But Activision shares fell 12 per cent over the past month after about a quarter of the staff at its Infinity Ward studio quit following the sacking of two of the studio's senior staff. Modern Warfare 2, has raked in more than $1.5 billion in sales.

Activision is sueing the sacked pair, Vincent Zampella and Jason West, alleging they were trying to "steal the studio" and sneak off to arch rival Electronic Arts. The pair are sueing back and have founded a new studio called Respawn, backed - ahem - by EA.

Thirty-eight other Infinity Ward employees are also suing the Activision for allegedly delaying the payment of over $54 million in royalties for Modern Warfare 2.

Kotick said Activision sacked the pair for insubordination and breach of contract, but reckons the franchise would not be affected. "It’s a magnet for talent, we have a lot of other resources, we don’t think we will see a blip," he said.

Kotick reckons the forthcoming Black Ops will be the biggest game of the year largely we guess, because it's available on multiple platforms - unlike the XBox-only Halo:Reach. "I’m comfortable Call of Duty: Black Ops will be the biggest video game of the year," he proclaimed.

To back this up, he reckons the PS3 will outsell the XBox 360 this year by around a million units, although neither is likely to catch the flying Wii in Activision's view.

In a later call, Activision said it had flogged some 17 million map packs for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and said 2010 will see more of the same lucrative tactic delivered at $15 a pop.