Judge denies EA motion to dismiss in $400M Infinity Ward case

Publisher remains party to Activision suit against former Call of Duty heads Jason West, Vince Zampella; employee-group royalty suit amended with fraud complaints.

Activision's effort to have Electronic Arts added to its massive $400 million contract-breach lawsuit against former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella is officially a go. The Los Angeles Times reports today that Northern California Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle dismissed all but one of EA's objections of being added to the suit, paving the way for the trial in May.

EA unsuccessfully evaded Activision's grasp.

According to the LA Times, Judge Berle cited EA's alleged pursuit of confidential information from West and Zampella as cause for not granting the publisher's motion to dismiss. EA lawyer Robert Klieger reportedly argued during the hearing that Activision had not produced any evidence of said pursuit, calling the claim a "conclusionary allegation."

Activision had not responded to GameSpot's request for comment as of press time. However, EA spokesperson Jeff Brown had, telling GameSpot, "Activision’s attempt to drag others into the suit is subterfuge. This has always been a simple case of two artists trying to get paid for their work. We’re confident that the jury will side with Jason and Vince and order Activision to pay them the hundreds of millions they are owed."

The battle between EA, Activision, Jason West, and Vince Zampella began in March 2010, when the Call of Duty publisher fired its star Infinity Ward leaders, claiming insubordination. Those terminations led to an ongoing saga that saw mass defections from developer Infinity Ward, the creation of West and Zampella's new studio Respawn Entertainment under EA's auspices, and a volley of litigation between the pair, Activision, and current and former Infinity Ward employees.

As for that last bit of litigation, the LA Times also reports that the group of 40 former Infinity Ward employees have once again amended their complaint over unpaid royalties against Activision. The new complaint reportedly adds a half-dozen more claims against Activision, including fraud.

Of these new claims, the group of 40 alleges that Activision engaged in direct and indirect fraud through promises of "enhanced bonuses" for the completion of Modern Warfare 2.

"All of these promises to Infinity Ward employees were in significant part the product of Activision's intense determination in early 2008 to close a proposed merger with another video game company, Vivendi Blizzard," reads a copy of the complaint obtained by GameSpot. "For Activision and its top executives to reap the rewards of that merger required the ability to promise its merger partner that Infinity Ward would remain intact and would develop, produce, and deliver on schedule a new Modern Warfare 2 game."

"To achieve that goal, Activision greatly increased the value and attractiveness of the bonuses, royalties, and creative authority promises it made to West, Zampella, and the plaintiffs," it continued. "But Activision had no intention of actually honoring the very favorable promises it made, including but not limited to the promises to pay plaintiffs enhanced bonus payments."

The group of 40 is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in compensatory damages.

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Discussion

246 comments
maximusale146
maximusale146

Interesting to see how people are painting Activision and Kotick as greedy bastards with little regard for its employees. Nobody seems to remember that 2 years ago EA laid off around 1500 people, with Ricitello giving a half-assed excuse, saying "Anything that doesn't measure up to be in a very high profit contributor and unit seller got cut from this point going forward," , basically declaring them all unworthy. What´s funny is, after this, crap like Medal Of Honor (with it´s 4-hour single player) and (unfinished) Dragon Age 2 came out.

cephas90
cephas90

I hope this blows up in Activisions face. I also hope Kotick is then forced to swallow flaming tar until he melts.

cyclonebw
cyclonebw

Id be ok with activision burning to the ground. Both literally and metaphorically.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

CoD started with Infinity Ward, and the best CoDs were made by Infinity Ward. I honestly hope that this f#ck up does not hinder their good work.

Failed2Live
Failed2Live

Activision needs to stop being a bunch of greedy corprate pigs and pay up.

Kvon403
Kvon403

Really fox news, prostitution is painting a harmful picture of women well then why don't you tell THE PROSTITUTES THAT. like of course it paints a bad picture but you cant tell everybody close there eyes

Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

@weedman1985 I understand that. I'm just trying to make someone a bit more responsible for their comments.

Rohit4
Rohit4

man i just hope modern warfare 3 is good... not just stupid like treyarch did for world at war

dg3215
dg3215

Two money hungry companies, all this means is they start charging 65 per game.

weedman1985
weedman1985

@Timmy_Gwar The poor quality of DA2 is mostly EA's fault. Trust me, I've been in this business long enough to see things like this happen almost on a daily basis. First thing that almost every man does with a newly acquired property, is change things. Same goes for management changes in big companies. I've seen many hard working and productive employees loose their jobs at times like this for trivial reasons, like arguing with the new manager, for example. We all know EA keeps a tight leash on their employees, so I'm guessing that the bulk of Bioware's finest and most dedicated developers have long left the company. It's not too much of a stretch to think that developers might leave a company that treats them like dirt. Also, I don't need to provide proof that EA keeps a very tight leash on their employees do I? you can easily find evidence to that with a simple google search.

Samrat_Ashok
Samrat_Ashok

@Timmy_Gwar Err....right, you want me to provide proof for the fact that publishing houses fund developers and give them deadlines to finish games? Do you also want proof that Bioware makes games? :P

Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

@Samrat_Ashok Still waiting on something hard to back that up...

Samrat_Ashok
Samrat_Ashok

@Timmy_Gwar Actually I'm not limiting the influence to creative control (which incidentally all publishing houses have over the content they publish...if they want something different they say so, and the developer has to make the changes), but also saying that EA has influence enough to make them speed up the development of a game, thus making it substandard.

Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

@Samrat_Ashok I was never really talking about the quality of DA2, that's obviously something we disagree on but you can't argue opinion so I'm going to stop that right now. My original statement, to which you took offense, was that EA has no creative control over Bioware. Put simply, Bioware is the same as it used to be but the execs have a part time job as EA VP's now. An argument which I have cited news articles to back up. You on the other hand have not provided me with anything but opinion and the promise that the forums are flooded with proof of an unrelated and unimportant topic.

Samrat_Ashok
Samrat_Ashok

@Timmy_Gwar That proves nothing. And all the proof I need is spilling over every forum where Dragon Age 2 has been discussed. The game is terrible when compared to the original. And the reason for that is the hurried development cycle and the premature release. The devs clearly stated after the Witch Hunt was released that while they had planned more DLC for the game they weren't going to dot hat now because they had to finish off and release DA2. Bioware's senior leads on the project who made decisions made mistakes but EA prodded them on every step of the way.

Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

@Samrat_Ashok Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying. Except that I'm a level headed individual who thought that DA2 was simply worse and not bad. Oh, and don't call me a liar when you have no proof to back up your own hasty claims. http://www.gamespot.com/news/6184332.html?tag=result%3Btitle%3B5 That should explain things to you a bit more clearly, well, that and the other hundreds of articles that explain things pretty clearly. The GM's at Bioware remain the same, as does most of thier execs. Only difference is that now a couple of them also work for EA in VP positions. Just search "bioware ea" and click on news, its all there.

wills_b
wills_b

@darkvalen Posted Mar 19, 2011 4:06 pm PT EA Has always been a good company, activision is the selfish pig. What?! You only have to go back about 2-3 years to find people demonising EA for buying up too many smaller game developers then shutting them down! It's only because of the EA partners programme that people's view of them has changed. Don't get me wrong, I agree that it looks like Activision is being a complete thief in this case, but to say EA has always been a good company is massively short sighted!

KrazzyDJ
KrazzyDJ

Sometimes, all this makes me think that these articles were largely influential in the success of Black Ops !!!

Sablicious
Sablicious

The best thing that can come out of this is lawyers backrupt all concerned and we never see another of these shovelware FPSs turds again!

Sablicious
Sablicious

The best thing that can come out of this is lawyers backrupt all concerned and we never see another of these shovelware FPSs turds again!

deadlysilence82
deadlysilence82

there still having issues with law suit against activision company. i think activision should just pay what the owe to those developers who created a good quality game .

darkvalen
darkvalen

EA Has always been a good company, activision is the selfish pig.

Jyat
Jyat

they should make up and kiss, then get on with MW3

StickRox
StickRox

I'm taking a fairly neutral stand point on this issue as we have no clue what is really going on in there, we can only speculate as to what is the truth and what is lies, however in lieu of that I am leaning slightly towards EA and they hardly should have been brought into this as it it clearly between West and Zampella and Activision. Also I'm wondering if the reason Activision shut down guitar hero and Tony Hawk was partial due to this case because that would suck if it was the case coz I personally loved guitar hero coming out every year, but that is neither here nor there.

Apathetic_Prick
Apathetic_Prick

Uh oh. I agree, EA should not be drawn into this suit; this is not their fault. Activision is probably trying to bleed their competition out of pure spite at this point given that the number of plaintiffs is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and... I'm reminded of the story about the little boy who was just a head, wanted to be more, got it and then got run over by the school bus on his first day of school. It has a moral: Quit while you're ahead.

Kid2812
Kid2812

Now this is getting interesting

shadowkiller11
shadowkiller11

I remember when EA was the hated company. Thankfully Activision is the hated and EA is the neutral company. Both got flaws but I hope EA wins this Activision's just poor.

DarthVeng_basic
DarthVeng_basic

My life goes on either way. Both companies are greedy and deserve hell.

Judas_III
Judas_III

Activision cant be a good company with amazing talent like Blizzard and Bungie. Clearly, they know what it takes to give creative freedom to developers. Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 are sweet for Activision, but I assume all EA fanboys won't buy those.

theslimdavylp
theslimdavylp

Uh oh... things are going to get even uglier

KristoffBrujah
KristoffBrujah

What did EA do? Activision tossed them out like old shoes, of course they'll end up somewhere with "confidential" info about the game they created. dur

SythisTaru
SythisTaru

Ubisoft, 2k, and Bethesda should team up and take control of the industry while the two giants are fighting! :D

brain56
brain56

Now this is how lucrative and corrupt the video game industry is.

Gliave
Gliave

Mayday, we have a hostage situation.... Setting all this bull poop aside though, EA's been so far the only company (at least for recently and this year) with a good queue of titles that are worth the cash. From NFS, ME series, to DeadSpace 2. Looks like Activision's about to face a sheet storm though that's for sure.

Killzone_Master
Killzone_Master

As much as EA has been in neutral zone for me. Activision just needs to die. Greedy bastards and their glitchy games, a perfect example of what a gaming company shouldnt be.

GuinnessHero
GuinnessHero

What sort of world are we living in that EA is now the 'good guys' again? Lets be honest, both Activision and EA have turned into money grabbing cash cows who place profit before making top notch games. So activision, put away your handbags, cut the bs and just give west and zampella their money. EA, just stay the hell out of the matter and get back to whatever it is you do these days (sure isn't making quality games anymore). Guys, don't make me come down there and give you a beat down. Sort it out.

magusat999
magusat999

Like my daddy used to say after he beat my butt and found out I was innocent - "You might not have done this - but you did SOMETHING..." EA has done a lot of "somethings", so if they get tagged in this it would be just desserts...

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

really, activision? was that really necessary?

Spacerac
Spacerac

I've only rented Bulletstorm a weekend ago and I do not believe you will need an online pass to play online in all EA games. I played with the devs last Saturday. The game only asks you for a pass for extra cosmetic stuff (leash, extra multiplayer maps). Well yeah that stuff should be in the game anyway but my original point stands.

Samrat_Ashok
Samrat_Ashok

@Timmy_Gwar I'm sorry, what? EA was not related to DA2's development? Really? Then it was entirely Bioware's decision to change the whole design of their very well received first game, and change it into a console-ified mush that no sane PC player could possibly enjoy? And it was entirely Bioware's decision to make a hurried release of the game with so many bugs (some of them gamebreaking), and so few maps? Say what you will but don't say that EA did not have a hand in screwing Dragon Age 2 up, because that's just plain lies.

lozo777
lozo777

This story should get turned into a movie.. And then activision can sue whoever produced it!

acer_062
acer_062

Wow, looks like this is developing into a great prelude for a movie ....

Arsyad00
Arsyad00

corrupted adult ..........

Sniper
Sniper

"This has always been a simple case of two artists trying to get paid for their work." The EA guy left off the word "scam" before he said "artists." Not that any of those involved can call themselves innocent. It seems like EA, the ex-Infinity Ward executives (not artists) and Activision are in competition to see who can be the most greedy.

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

@fifasccr12 - Greed is nothing new, but the huge costs of making a AAA title these days is partly to blame for the spike in manure offerings. There's still plenty of people who just want to make great games, but not many of them have a spare 30-50 million lying around, so investors are needed. Unfortunately, investors don't give a rat's ass about the quality of the product they're funding, so long as it makes them money. If a game where you performed unnecessary surgery on Jesus and then ate the body parts while torturing babies would make money, they'd be trampling their mothers to get a piece of it. I have high hopes for the indie scene though, with the internet providing cheap distribution of content, I think we'll start to find that the best games are the ones made cheaply for the players.

CaptainVictory
CaptainVictory

Activision is the scummy under belly of the gaming industry...

super600
super600

LOL! I can't believe Activision is being charged for fraud. Even though EA is kinda evil I hope they kick Activision all the way out of profibility.

soulless4now
soulless4now

Poor EA being dragged in to all of this. Either way, this is looking to be an ugly court battle.

blackace
blackace

Gotta pay the piper Activision. Start opening those wallets and get ready to pay millions that you owe.