IP Ownership Issue Prevented Respawn From Signing With THQ

After their high-profile departure from Activision, Modern Warfare developers Jason West and Vince Zampella considered signing on with THQ before issues surrounding IP ownership stopped the deal.
After their high-profile departure from Activision, Infinity Ward founders and Modern Warfare developers Jason West and Vince Zampella considered signing a publishing deal with THQ, rather than EA. But the potential matchup was eventually scuttled, both sides say, because of the one issue that neither side was will to compromise on: IP ownership. "My responsibility to our stockholders and to my CEO and the company is to build an IP library," THQ vice president for Games Danny Bilson told Wired at a recent press event. Caving to Respawn's demands to own the rights to their creations would have "open[ed] the doors for everyone else to say, 'I wanna own it too,'" he continued. Zampella confirmed to Wired that he and West had "serious discussions" about the then-newly formed Respawn Entertainment partnering with THQ, but that the pair's negative experience with Activision made them unwilling to give up IP control. "As for the IP ownership, frankly, after what we'd just been through with Activision, owning the IP we were going to create was important to us," Zampella said. "Unfortunately, THQ did not want to agree to that." In an interview with Gamasutra last May, EA Games President Frank Gibeau said the company's deal with the pair "was something that fell into our laps. ... The fact that we were able to take advantage of an opportunity that came our way and partner with Respawn and create a relationship with them has been spectacular." Shortly after Respawn signed with EA, a newly-independent Bungie signed a similar deal with Activision in which the developer retained its IP rights, a state of affairs that's still a rarity in the games industry. Dozens of former Infinity Ward employees followed West and Zampella to Respawn after the pair broke off from Activision amidst accusations of unpaid royalties.

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