Infinity Ward Founders And Activision Engage In Legal Warfare
March 04, 2010
The saga of Activision and Infinity Ward continues as the latter's fired founders, Jason West and Vince Zampella, have filed a lawsuit against the mighty publisher. Millions of dollars and the future of the Call of Duty franchise are at stake. Kotaku has sixteen pages of legal documents for your perusal, but for those of us who don't speak lawyer, Kotaku commenter VergessenHeld translates it into plain English. Skip trying to make sense of the documents and just read the aforementioned summary. It's much easier to understand and paints a clearer picture of just what is going on with this issue.
WHAT HAPPENED:The two developers were promised royalties as part of their contract for Modern Warfare 2. They're claiming Activision fired them under false pretenses in order to avoid paying those royalties. The lawsuit then gives background about the company, including alleging that Activision purposely gave Infinity Ward a small budget for Call of Duty in order to buy 30% of its stock for cheap since the small budget would keep them from fighting it.
It also states some things we all know; sales figures, revenue numbers, etc. West and Zampella (the two developers and plaintiffs) had only one year on their contract before MW2 started. They were reluctant to get an extension on their contract, but did so anyway because Activision promised complete control of IW AND creative control over any post-Vietnam Call of Duty and MW games that might be developed.
Blah, blah, blah; more sales figures and talks of how MW2 was praised upon release. Activision then launched the investigation of Zampella and West about a week after the release of MW2. They hired outside lawyers and investigators to question other employees (some of whom cried from anxiety) and threatened insubordination charges if the two plaintiffs tried to console the other employees. West and Zampella then said they were going to talk to their lawyers, at which point they were told Activision would make things worse if they did. The two men were also never told what exactly they had done wrong at any given point during the investigation. Activision strung the investigation along, then gave the two IW guys about six hours to respond to the accusations. A couple days later, Activision announced the new Call of Duty games they want to make (which were posted in another article).
WHAT THEY WANT:The first claim is to about US$36 million in damages. Second, they also want control of the Modern Warfare franchise back, since that was what was promised. Third, they also say Activision cannot make any further MW games OR post-Vietnam Call of Duties set in the present, near future, or far future. Fourth, they feel that Activision owes them their royalties and bonuses regardless of whether or not their termination from IW was legitimate. And obviously, they want their attorney fees covered.
Provided that things move forward, this will be a major case to watch. The Modern Warfare and Call of Duty names are worth ungodly amounts of money and prestige right now, and obviously Activision wants to hang on to those properties by any means necessary. Part of the alleged reason for the dismissal of West and Zampella involved the claim that Activision wanted Infinity Ward to crank out annual Modern Warfare sequels against the duo's will, so I can't help but wonder if attempting to legally snag the rights to the franchise is about taking it away from Activision as much as it is keeping it for themselves. Pay close attention in the weeks and months ahead. If you think Activision has lashed out already, you haven't seen anything yet.