Ex-Infinity Ward heads asking for $36 million in suit

Jason West and Vince Zampella alleging publisher trumped up HR charges, conducted "Orwellian" investigation in order to avoid paying royalties, giving it control over Modern Warfare franchise.

The basics of Jason West and Vince Zampella's lawsuit against their former employer Activision were laid out in a press release from their legal representation this morning, but the announcement lacked some colorful details from the actual court filing. The developers' attorneys have provided GameSpot with a copy of the suit, which paints a more fleshed-out picture of Activision's alleged misdeeds.

The legal spat between Activision and its former employees is almost as heated as the action in Modern Warfare 2.

"This lawsuit is solely and regrettably the result of the astonishing arrogance and unbridled greed of defendant Activision," the suit begins, before getting to the accusations at the heart of the dispute. The developers are accusing Activision of launching a bogus investigation into the pair's activities specifically for the purpose of firing them and evading contractual obligations, as well as royalty payments set to begin March 31.

In detailing the investigation that led to their exit from the company, West and Zampella claim that Activision refused to tell them what they were being investigated for, "insisting instead in Orwellian fashion that West and Zampella 'already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done.'" The publisher's investigators are accused of using strong-arm tactics, including a six-hour "interrogation" in a windowless conference room over the President's Day weekend.

Additionally, West and Zampella said Activision representatives interviewed other Infinity Ward employees so doggedly it drove them to tears and then told the pair they would be guilty of insubordination--grounds for termination--if they attempted to console the employees. The suit also claims that Activision insisted that West and Zampella turn over their personal computers, cell phones, and other such devices for review. When the pair cited their right to privacy, they were told that asserting that right would be considered insubordination.

Beyond the investigation and the way it was conducted, West and Zampella are also accusing Activision of trying to back out of a 2008 agreement with the developers. Under the terms of that deal, West and Zampella would extend their contracts until October of 2011 and deliver the finished version of Modern Warfare 2 by November 15, 2009.

In return, the publisher promised to give the pair creative control over any Call of Duty game set after the Vietnam era (including near-future and far-future versions) or using the Modern Warfare brand. West and Zampella also claim the agreement gave them the right to run Infinity Ward independently of Activision (while remaining a wholly owned subsidiary of the publisher) to develop a new intellectual property after finishing Modern Warfare 2, as well as increased compensation in the form of stock options and royalties for all Call of Duty games and non-Call of Duty games that are built using Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare engine.

"Activision has adopted the corporate strategy of forcing Messrs. West and Zampella to sue for their pay--in the hopes of either getting away with not having to pay them anything or maximizing its leverage to reduce that pay," the suit alleges. "Such actions are not surprising, given that Activision is run by a CEO who has been publicly quoted as believing the best way to run a video game studio is to engender a culture of 'skepticism, pessimism, and fear' and who prefers to pay his lawyers instead of his employees."

West and Zampella are demanding $36 million in damages (as of the date of the filing), future royalties, legal fees, and a judicial determination of their rights to creative control of the Modern Warfare brand, as well as their rights over the Call of Duty brand, as stated in the 2008 agreement.

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533 comments
cephas90
cephas90

I hope this bankrupts Activision.

cthumann
cthumann

@osiris So sit here in the forums and cry about it all day. I'll be playing COD. Later.

cthumann
cthumann

@wbezuidenhout That's right...I don't care. I am a gamer and I love the product they produce. I can give 2 sh*ts about what they're doing administratively and from a corporate perspective. Like I said, as long as they produce the product I want, I don't care. Why should I care? The price has been the same for me since COD 1. You call me ignorant? I am just a guy with no agendas. I live my life happily and am even thankful there's company's like IW and Activision to provide me with entertainment of any kind.

Dominicobaggio
Dominicobaggio

Dont know whos right or wrong and dont care too much but one thing i find amusing is how the lawsuit states its being brought about because of unbridaled greed, then goes on to demand 36 million for 2 people in damages... lolz

Aminal_basic
Aminal_basic

You Go Guys (West and Zampella ) It is their product and Activision is just pi@@ed that they made an agreement like that. They didn't think it would go over that well and now regret offering so much. Well they made their bed and I hope they are forced into keeping it :)

Arther-la-Blunt
Arther-la-Blunt

what's wrong with "a culture of 'skepticism, pessimism, and fear'? Sounds like my wife's motto.

naraku2099
naraku2099

I'm with Infinity Ward. If the next Modern Warfare isn't made by them, I WILL refuse to buy it. I want a sequel, but not one made by somebody other than the geniuses who created the Modern Warfare franchise.

valttu
valttu

F*** you Activision, and thanks for destroying one of the best developers around. I'm not buying MW3 if it's made by anyone else than IW.

osiris
osiris

@cthuman Have you seen the people leaving IW because of Kotik's strongarm tactics? Modern Warfare is already going somewhere completely different with the top 4 (including the director behind its all-too-awesome multiplayer) leaving.

acer_062
acer_062

Activision you really, really s*ck

endocrine
endocrine

When the CEO of activision said he did not want game development to be "fun", I guess he really meant it. If those phones and computers were bought by the company, these developers cannot really complain.Although, I am curious as to what these developers did to incur the wrath of Activision. I do hope these developers get control of the CoD franchise, as it is better in their hands than in Activision's.

wbezuidenhout
wbezuidenhout

@cthumann Bobby Kotick loves you, and every other person who thinks like you: "I don't care whether it's any good, I don't care who got screwed to make it, I don't care what they charge for it, I'll buy it because it says MW on the box!"... You are the reason Kotick wants to grind the COD franchise into the ground, and will make tons of money doing it!

cthumann
cthumann

As long as Activision and Infinity Ward keep pumping out more Modern Warfare titles, I can give a crap who gets paid for what.

Australians
Australians

i hope they get there company back and the call of duty brand since activision is a company which deserves no respect

Amauris96
Amauris96

Wow, they SUCK! Never liked Activision anyways. Friggin R-tards soo damn greedy.

cookie986
cookie986

i just googled this bobby kotick guy.....he looks like money-sucking-scum-bag-hate-gamers kinda guy.... pretty decent =p look at one of his quotes at a conference "We have a real culture of thrift. The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games." u gotta love him loooool *sarcasm*

jojoforpres
jojoforpres

I don't care who is in the right, I just hope it costs Activision a lot of bread. Is this message going to get "deleted" too? Am I "insulting a user"? I only ask because the last time I took a verbal swing at Activision my acount got bumped all the way back to level 19, and I got a three day suspension. *******.

Dan21278
Dan21278

@ jer_1 I agree with you man Activision is run by evil, heartless money loving scum bags. I hope IW wins. Now that would make me happy.^_^ I wonder how badly they treat there employees. A wise man once told me not to judge a man based on how he treats his equals but on how he treats his inferiors.

oneligas
oneligas

all those two knuckle heads need to do to get back at Activision is get most of the key Infinity Ward developers to quit and start up a new Company and make a spiritual sequel to CoDMW2 and get EA to publish it.

VR_Verdugo
VR_Verdugo

djtim, I imagine it was Activision's idea but both parties are to blame as far as I'm concerned. They both had their names on the box. But don't mind me, I'm just bitter and vindictive.

Silinel
Silinel

Oh, how I'd love to see these guys win the suit and offer a job to every person on their original dev team that's currently employed by Activision.

djtim_3000
djtim_3000

@ VR_Verdugo You seriously think it was the developers choice to screw over the PC platform?!

decoy1978
decoy1978

I consider 36 mill to be decent figure considering they made two very big games that gave ATVI so much more in return. Theres alway's two sides to each story so I'm not gonna pick a side yet. OTOH... I do hope that they keep the control for MW series. BTW if anyone cares, stocks for ATVI have slumped today.

Omaciel
Omaciel

so they make billions and then everything goes to crap wow that is stupid

dsa0224
dsa0224

well i got my money's worth with MW2. im done buying anything from Activision or Infinity ward. all this is nothing more than Bobby Kotick trying to be stupid. they deserve all the problems that they have after screwing the PC community, the enormous amount of glitching at MW2, and so on.

VR_Verdugo
VR_Verdugo

I have no love for Activision but we're only getting one side of the story here. I'm sure more details will emerge. Also, I must confess some degree of satisfaction at these IW guys getting screwed over like the PC community was screwed over with MW2. Still that's no excuse for greed or cheating anyone out of their fair share.

Droggy6
Droggy6

I'm glad these guys are going after Activision. Activision needs to remember back when they were a development house making games for the Atari 2600. Activision has gotten too big, they have grown fat and greedy from sucking on the Blizzard World of Warcraft Cash flow. THey need to remember gamers and the people who make them their money.

Frimmel
Frimmel

Buying used is not a boycott of Activision. Someone must still patronize them in order for there to be used games to buy. If you wish to protest this sort of unethical action by not doing business with Activision you must not buy any Activision products new or used.

Juk3n
Juk3n

Buying used activision games from now on, what scum they are to pull a stunt like this. If i was Infinity Ward personel, id site Activision breaching safe work condition protocals and leave them. Any major publisher would give their right nut for a developer like Infinity Ward. I hope West and Zampella win this suit HARD!

Frimmel
Frimmel

Rorshach120, the 36 million is for 'damages' they are also suing to be paid and continue to be paid the royalties owed them on the game as well as to keep the creative control they've been given.

These guys are owed royalties on a billion dollar grossing game. They are owed control of a game franchise with a billion dollar grossing installment.

Activision is, quite simply, not honoring their agreement.

daddydingdong
daddydingdong

Activision really are scum i hope west and zampella win this suit and continue making good games away from those b@stards

jer_1
jer_1

Wow, activision is ran by some true scumbags. Don't count on me buying an Activision game again...

CannedBullets
CannedBullets

Gamers, buy your Activision games used, I'd rather have a lesser evil like Gamestop have my money.

CannedBullets
CannedBullets

IW should become their own company if they win this, hopefully they can buy back the Call of Duty IP. Sounds like Activision treats its employees like Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Rorschach120
Rorschach120

They win. They get $36mil. They start new company. More awesome games. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if they avoided using a publisher by just going the semi-Valve route of all online downloads i.e. PSN, Xbox Live, steam, etc.

BlizzardFan2009
BlizzardFan2009

Activision's actions, if it is true, proves that the gaming industry is becoming increasingly corrupt. I hope those two wins.

Mercadeo
Mercadeo

gamespot should put this new at homepage, every gamer should know and make a stand to these big corporations that think they can do whatever they want, while the real creative people gets F***K. Is not about if you like COD anymore. I wont buy any COD from activision, and that is if I buy any activision game at all....

Mercadeo
Mercadeo

West and zampella! we gamers stand by you!. I really hope they win.. I wont buy any activision games anymore, they forgot they were game industry and became the worts scumb of america, the coorporations.

SMITHYNERD
SMITHYNERD

So wot are the chances of MW 3 then

Taylor9124
Taylor9124

The best possible outcome of this? Bobby Kotick gets fired, Activision goes under, and we never have to hear about them turning good franchises into a milked franchise. IW is an amazing group of people, and deserves to win this.

TheKokopelli
TheKokopelli

Well if Activision entered a contract with them to produce a product, and they produced said product, and now Activision is trying to back out, it sounds like a breech of said contract. Nonetheless, whether one hates or loves the CoD series, it has helped bring in plenty of dollars to Activision's coffers. Reading this makes me glad I canceled the pre-order.

joksterz78
joksterz78

oh the problems of mortals .... how they vex me.

The_Jackle
The_Jackle

@anotherone10 thank you for putting some much needed reason into what was fast becoming one of the most idiotic threads I have ever read. The very idea that people should be paid on quality alone is an immature, adolescent foolishness. Quality is subjective to OPINION and to base a persons royalties on an OPINION is incredibly counter productive to the process of this or any other medium. And for anyone who has enough faith in Activision's creativity to believe they would fire someone for making a mediocre or derivative product really should educate themselves further on the subject. Activision are an absolute disgrace of a company and are the epitome of everything wrong with American capitalism.

anotherone10
anotherone10

This isn't about if people like or dislike the Call Of Duty/ Modern Warfare franchise, its about how Activision is being so unbelivably greedy. Jason West and Vince Zampella are the founders of Infinity Ward & without them Activision wouldn't have racked up some $8 billion from MW2. For Activision to fire them just before they were supposed to get paid is outrageous, even if some people think their game is mediocre, they absolutely deserve to get paid for all their hard work. I hope Activison get sued, they deserve it.

Extreme124
Extreme124

OMG no one cares about IW get over it gamespot, COD 6 sucked on more levels than a 20 cent hooker !!!

alibabba13
alibabba13

I suddenly believe in Karma. Hopefully West and Zampella dont get anything out of this.

nirvanamaniac
nirvanamaniac

That being said i'm not sure if IW is as bad as Activision, i mean we have no information on what they have done. Quite frankly i wouldn't be surprised they got fired for blatantly stealing their ideas from so many other games, for example: titles/icons from Street Fighter IV

nirvanamaniac
nirvanamaniac

It took everyone long enough to realise how greedy Activision really is, even though they were charging £5 extra RRP higher than any other game which has ever been put out and they are milking Starcraft 2 buy charging a full game price for each of the three campaigns. It is a total rip off and no one seemed to realise that, they are just con artists.

FBIoh3
FBIoh3

alot of comments condemning activision.... lets not forget that IW forgot where they came from when MW2 was made, if it was made for console only, fine, but supposedly it was made for pc also in which case MP failed big time. reap what you sow. Battlefield BC2 has pretty much put MW2 into the dirt anyways. Thankyou DICE!!

IrishBulldog93
IrishBulldog93

my solution to all problems in activision and infinity ward : sack Bobby Koticks period.