Activision countersues ex-Infinity Ward execs

[UPDATE] Call of Duty publisher claims Vince Zampella, Jason West were "self-serving schemers" trying to set up new studio; developers fire back.

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Activision fired Infinity Ward studio heads Vince Zampella and Jason West in March, and the publisher stated with seeming certainty at that time that the courts would soon be involved. Two days after their termination, Zampella and West confirmed that suspicion by firing off a legal salvo that sought some $36 million in damages, as well as control of the Modern Warfare franchise. Today, Activision returned fire.

Activision claims Zampella and West were turning traitor.

The Los Angeles Times reports today that Activision filed a countersuit this morning in the Los Angeles County Superior Court against Zampella and West. The suit sheds further light on Activision's original claim that it fired the formally prized creators of the lauded, and highly lucrative, Call of Duty franchise due to "breach of contract and insubordination."

Activision's filing states that "West and Zampella's misdeeds formed an unlawful pattern and practice of conduct that was designed to steal the [Infinity Ward] studio, which is one of Activision's most valuable assets--at the expense of Activision and its shareholders and for their own personal financial gain." Infinity Ward's Call of Duty franchise has logged sales of more than $3 billion for the publisher, following its 2003 acquisition.

Bolstering initial reports that Zampella and West were defecting to their former employer Electronic Arts, the filing also accuses the two of embarking "on a secret trip by private jet to Northern California, arranged by their Hollywood agent, to meet with the most senior executives of Activision's closest competitor." EA was not explicitly named in the lawsuit and declined to comment on Activision's claim, but its headquarters is just south of San Francisco.

The suit also claims that the two prevented "Activision from awarding additional compensation to [Infinity Ward] team members as a reward for the success of [Infinity Ward]-developed games, in order to make these employees easier to poach when West and Zampella executed their plans to leave the company and set up their own company." Last week, Infinity Ward lead designer Todd Alderman and lead software engineer Francesco Gigliotti both departed the company.

Additionally, the filing states that Zampella and West held up the development of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 as part of a bid to gain more money. The two "morphed from valued, responsible executives into insubordinate and self-serving schemers who attempted to hijack Activision's assets for their own personal gain and whose actions threatened both the future of the Call of Duty franchise and future of Activision's (Infinity Ward) studio," the filing states.

Activision is seeking to withhold all future payments to Zampella and West, as well as compensatory damages. [UPDATE] Responding to requests for comment, Activision said that its countersuit today shows that Zampella and West were terminated for "good reason."

"Activision's cross-complaint filed today against Jason West and Vince Zampella makes clear that the company did not arrive at its decision to fire them lightly or without good reason," the publisher said in a statement. "It further shows Activision was forced to sever the relationship when it became apparent that long-standing attempts failed to convince West and Zampella to conform their conduct to what was required of them by their contracts, company policies and as fiduciaries."

[UPDATE 2]: West and Zampella's attorney sent out a press release today with their response to Activision's countersuit. The prepared statement called Activision's claims in the suit "false and outrageous."

"Just one example is Activision's allegation that Jason and Vince conspired to spin off Infinity Ward. Activision itself proposed spinning off Infinity Ward when, last year, it sought to renegotiate Jason and Vince's contract to induce them to forego developing a new game in favor of doing another Modern Warfare sequel. Jason and Vince had hired the Creative Artists Agency to advise them in their negotiations with Activision, not to breach their contract."

The statement went on to say that Activision's suit is just an attempt for the publisher to drag its heels on paying out "millions of dollars" owed to the developers and their former co-workers at Infinity Ward. It also affirms that West and Zampella "have taken steps to regain control over their creative future and plan to have an announcement very soon."

Discussion

575 comments
P90E21
P90E21

heheh say hello to MW2.5 I mean 3 yeah 3 lest they still have the lackeys cause on other sites its says almost all the leads have left activision. They are in my belief doing what EA did and they want to run it al into the ground I hope the the studio spin off makes another great game under EA lest they wont breath down their necks every five secounds.

The_AI
The_AI

This isn't a matter of breach of contract. No, this is a matter of wanting TOTAL CONTROL over the COD franchise. Congratulations Activision. You've made me hate you even more.

vorkosigan97
vorkosigan97

Actually, Activision's suit looks pretty reasonable if what they allege is correct. Employers have the right to fire anyone at any time (unless race, sex, or religion are the main cause). Considering that these two guys are rock stars, their behavior must have been prety egregious for them to be fired. Look, this is a fight between millionaires, let's hope this all settles quickly so everybody involved can get back to producing games.

adsaint
adsaint

It seems ridiculous that Activision would fire and file suit against the head of infinity ward because of breech of contract, especially since infinity ward just released the highest grossing game of all time last year. There must be something else behind it, they probably just didnt want to pay them. $550 million in the first week! it dont make no sense

wickdawg01
wickdawg01

Well after reading Activisions countersuit its clear they have very little hard ground with which to stand. All their claims are biased and heresay, furthermore it seems to me that since EVERYONE else that worked in Infinity Ward has left the company, Activision has clearly made a wrong move. I see this going in the favor of Zampella and West.

Kastigador
Kastigador

Keep in mind this countersuit is clearly intended to twist the facts to its favor, regardless of what really happened. Does Activision truly own Call of Duty given that Infinity Ward built it from the ground up? Who knows what really was going on behind closed doors that led to all this, but maybe Infinity Ward execs had a good reason to try and defect... they saw Activision was going to burn out the IP for the sake of the almighty dollar. These top dogs could likely care less about financial success at this point as they're likely looking for independence and creative feedom. Like move actors and directors that are already made, they're resisting getting stuck in some lame trilogy and more deal. I'm sure Activision could really care less about that.

Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

"prevented "Activision from awarding additional compensation to [Infinity Ward]" It's tough to say what's actually going on here. It's strange that there's a new studio with funding from a competitor already in place. Was Activision in the right? It's more complex than that, but possibly. Sounds like IW didn't want to do another MW title and Activision did. I think that's the core problem, so each side sought to resolve the matter in their own way; IW flees the company and Activision grabs Sledgehammer and passes the buck off to other dev shops. Honestly, in a couple more iterations people are going to be tired of MW. From a creative standpoint I actually agree with IW's idea of shelving the IP for a few years so demand can replenish while moving on to something else. It's just another example of Activision trying to milk the IP and the brand; it's just gonna get soured.

hajjjustin
hajjjustin

if Activisions claims are true than i can see that they did the right thing but why has it taken them this long to tell the media why they fired there employes. they should have told us on day one, thats why it seems like they have taken there time to come up with a plausable lie in order to save there own hides.

AlexPR_13
AlexPR_13

I agree with chapel, I think everybody here want to just side with the developers because traditionaly they're the "good guys", but really, isn't it a little too soon to be joining the competition. Activision's side of the story is more plausibe (at least to me) given the developers latest actions.

chapel2002
chapel2002

I fail to see why people are against activisions filing. Look at what they have said, they feared that Zampella and West were after infinity ward ownership and that they were in secret talks with EA. West and Zapella's lawsuit seeks ownership of the Call of Duty franchise and they have just taken jobs at EA. I think they have proven all that activision suspected.

GBPackersrule
GBPackersrule

Vladimir Lenin once said "There is a quality in quantity." I think Activision took this idea too far.

GameShark9000
GameShark9000

Instead of cooperating with developers to make new franchises to milk, Activision sues employees that they've just fired. And they wonder why EA is a bigger company.

TheAustrian
TheAustrian

Cuz I'm sure that "[stealing] the Infinity Ward studio" would be totally easy (if you didn't detect the note of sarcasm, there is one). I love how Activision cites their "misdeeds" yet only provides one: an unproven "secret trip". If there was infallible evidence, they would've looked better by saying so but they didn't. It makes you wonder... This sounds like another money grabbing scheme from a company who I used to respect. Neither side has yet proven their case, but Activision looks to be pretty guilty right now. It all lines up with how Kotick is running the company. Bloody idiots.

Jonny7892
Jonny7892

@SW2093 Lol what story? MW2 had the worst mess of a story i've seen in recent years and i've seen 'Submerged'

CoRiNi
CoRiNi

just how much Activision wants to lose its fans ?

LosDaddie
LosDaddie

Expected but still kinda silly.

brizzock
brizzock

A 3 billion dollar franchise, thats big time kill people or run a public smear campaign type money. Make no mistake, Activision is no different than any other company when big time dollars start rolling in. They have a giant cash cow, then they see some of their employees begin thinking for themselves a little more, and decide to nip it in the bud. Its extremely common behavior to fire such employees who endanger the bottom line, even when those employees have straightforward honest intentions. I cant fault either party regardless of the facts, cause this is the core of human nature.

joshphillips
joshphillips

So Ozzy is the prince of darkness and can tell the future? Awesome! Activision is trying to bully their way around and EA is a bigger and more profitable bully. EA will probably pay Activision off just to shut them up.

Sw2093
Sw2093

Well it doesnt explain one crucial thing WHAT IS GONNA HAPPEN TO MODERN WARFARE 3 i mean seriously you cant leave a story like that in limbo

Ozzy_Jacob
Ozzy_Jacob

i tell you whats funny, about 2 days ago i said " it would be funny if west and zampella joined EA for a new franchise", guess what happened?

Jasonfinger
Jasonfinger

who cares. Even if the 2 guys lose the rights to MW, you think they won't design another modern day shooter? You think they won't steal a bunch of ideas from the game and pump it into a new one. Infinity ward would use the same engine again and maby make a decent 3rd, hard to screw a game thats setup already (but yes, it has been done but I am sure QA qould be up their butts) Who cares...............Maby we will get 2 great shooters to look forward to now. MW and "whatever new they make".

melty3219
melty3219

Hmmm COD games are now going to be made by Treyarch, Sledgehammer studios and the now broken Infinity Ward? Yeah its safe to say that the COD franchise is going to be sucky from now on... oh well it was fun while it lastest *moves on with life*

0Aragorn0
0Aragorn0

It's like watching two adults in a nasty divorce fight fighting over who gets the toilet seat and who gets the children. This is just getting so out of line it's hard to see what is truth and what is mud being slung at each other.

HotHeatMcQueen
HotHeatMcQueen

I'm gonna sue you, and your gonna sue me. Lets not make good games, lets just make as much money as possible. We didn't make enough money so, lets sue somebody. Have fun with that guys!

kenerhai
kenerhai

So basically, since they didn't want to pump out sequels, Activision got it's panties in a bunch. Activision is known for pumping out sequels regardless of quality and I suppose Zampella and West just didn't get down like that. I hope they win the suit, get the rights to MW, and start their own studio with EA. I enjoy the MW series and can't wait for a third, but I'd also like to see what else they can make. F* Activision.

ScionofEntropy
ScionofEntropy

Ouch. Quite a blow Activision took when it lost those guys. Now their main competition, a suddenly not-as-soulless EA picked them up exclusively? This got interesting. I hope to see some great new IPs out of Respawn.

Kaosblade141
Kaosblade141

Don't really care. As long as MW3 lives up to whatever is expected.

MuddVader
MuddVader

"In what's surely one of the biggest megatons of the year so far, fired Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella have announced the formation of a new development studio, Respawn Entertainment in partnership with EA."

fps_d0minat0r
fps_d0minat0r

i'll be honest, i dont care who makes a game or who publishes it, if it turns out good and is worth the price, i would buy it and so would most of you so the comments most of you are writting are useless. im getting bored of these articles now.........i dont care what happens to 'celebrities', why would i care what happens to zampella or west?......their just 2 out of thousands of people who are allegedly treated unfairly by their employers.

Frimmel
Frimmel

They fired these guys a month before they were due royalties on a billion dollar grossing game. If some intrepid reporter could tell us what those royalties amounted to I'm sure discussion of these lawsuits would continue in a much different light.

calm_syrface
calm_syrface

COD is the best thing to happen for Activision almost ever! Guitar Hero is over with and now...it might be another company biting the dust. Thanks for the Killstreak rewards!

anotherone10
anotherone10

Activision is just an annoyance & embarrassment to the gaming industry.

Mills79
Mills79

It just shows Activision cares about quantity over quality. They're pumping out Guitar Hero games left and right and they're only getting worse and more lame. And they are killing the CoD franchise by having two devs, and now three (rumored) to pump out installments every year just to make a buck. MW2 is not a bad game, but it could've been better if they had an open beta for MP like they did for CoD 4. Granted CoD 4 had its share of problems, but not like the atrocities seen in MW2. This game was obviously rushed to meet their deadline for a November release.Infinity Ward needs to get out while they can or we can all say goodbye to this franchise.

pavel_btn
pavel_btn

F**k Activision. I do hope Infinity Ward go solo, they are famed enough to make it on their own now, and creative enough to take care of Modern Warfare 3 without Activision's selfish greedy claws groping at the assets.

BaLLz_ON_FiRE
BaLLz_ON_FiRE

Activision : We rip them off then we sue them.

stEElyDaN909
stEElyDaN909

It's time for activists to fight activision...

thecraponahat
thecraponahat

they should make a behind the scenes video or include this in the making like video for mwf3 as a limited special edition content it will make more money out of the court case videos you money hungry basterds

AnelZukic
AnelZukic

I always hated Activision, but this just puts them on the first place, where the second is far away :)

Rasgueado
Rasgueado

"... designed to steal the [Infinity Ward] studio..." Like how Bobby? Were they trying to fit it under some unseasonal ski jackets? It's pretty tough to steal a multi-million dollar division of a company. There's all these legal documents and things that go with it... it's not like they can just take the company and run out of state with it and operate in secret somewhere. Did their lawyers actually put that bit of language in the text of the suit? If so, I would try to get the money I paid them back.

whiskymaster
whiskymaster

Dr roboKotnick is evil and must be destroyed !! :-D

firehawk998
firehawk998

Activision shot itself in the foot now. This IW controversy will surely discourage any developing team to publish or work out a deal with Activision in the near future. The guys at Blizzard if you are reading this please run away now or Activision will later tarnish the good name you guys have on the gaming world.

Hell-Fire21
Hell-Fire21

Oh? What's this? Activision kicking and screaming all over the ground just because a couple of men needed to get the hell away from their greedy clutches? C'mon now. Activision has officially topped my "worst monopoly organization" list; surpassing Wal-Mart even.

Death_Blade_182
Death_Blade_182

Without Infinity Ward, Modern Warfare 3 is gonna suck ass :/

LOXO7
LOXO7

Is this kindof what's happening in that one show Mad Men?

firesage423
firesage423

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

XEKazumi
XEKazumi

@feleas I'm not certain on the details. You're probably right. And speaking of, I also heard that Vivendi Universal, Blizzard's parent company, actually owns most of Activison. What you're saying and what I'm saying are non-conflicting. However, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one that is actually aware of the deal of the deal between Blizzard and Activision. Thanks for the info.

acsam12304
acsam12304

its just sad that small game companys have to go to EA, Activition, or other known big companys to get there game published. if we gamers give a chance to games that are published with out a known company publishing it then maybe companys like IW will be there own company and not relay to go with a big company just so there games will get recognized by us gamers