Unsealed testimony alleges Activision tried to spy on ex-Infinity Ward heads

Call of Duty publisher allegedly launched a secret internal investigation against Jason West, Vince Zampella; EA settles out of court with Activision.

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A number of unsealed documents from the upcoming trial between Activision and a group of ex-Infinity Ward developers have revealed a testimony that alleges the publisher launched an internal investigation against lead plaintiffs Jason West and Vince Zampella.

A new testimony alleges Activision tried to spy on ex-Infinity Ward developers.

The documents--made public this week by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle--contain the testimony of Activision's former senior director of information technology, Thomas Fenady. As reported by Giant Bomb and The Los Angeles Times, Fenady's testimony alleges that Activision's in-house lawyer, George Rose, asked him to spy on West and Zampella by accessing their work emails, voice mails, and computer files.

According to Fenady, who left Activision in 2009, Rose told him the decision to investigate West and Zampella came from Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. The testimony also alleges that the objective--known as Project Icebreaker--was begun with the aim of building evidence against West and Zampella but that efforts to monitor the personal correspondence of the developers, which included using outside parties, were unsuccessful.

Other documents unsealed by Judge Elihu Berle in the case include a plan documenting bonuses from West and Zampella's initial agreement in 2003, as well as a memorandum of understanding from 2008, explaining the extension of the developers' initial contract.

According to the LA Times report, the documents form part of the contract that Activision had with West and Zampella and the 40 other game developers involved in the lawsuit, laying out the money that Activision owes the developers in royalties and bonuses.

Activision claims that it fired West and Zampella because they were secretly planning to start their new studio with the help of Electronic Arts, while still employed by the Call of Duty publisher. West and Zampella claim that the real reason they were fired was so Activision wouldn't have to pay them millions of dollars in royalties associated with Modern Warfare 2. Beyond the performance-based payout and any other court-awarded monetary damages, West and Zampella are seeking to gain co-ownership of the Modern Warfare brand. If successful in court, West and Zampella would have the right to create and release both old and new instalments in the Modern Warfare franchise.

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, Activision has dropped the $400 million claim against EA, which originally made up part of its lawsuit against West and Zampella.

Although the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, Bloomberg reported that EA will now be removed from the upcoming trial, set to take place on May 29.

Discussion

169 comments
txgamerwavg
txgamerwavg

Let the Court Battle BEGIN!!!!!!!!!!!

lifemeister
lifemeister

Settle it by who can make a better game.

Rickjames21881
Rickjames21881

Activision was formed, by disgruntled employees, that felt Atari should promote the people that make their games and be rewarded royalties. For a bunch of guys, that pretty much invented the third-party scene, screaming on and on about wanting their name, on the game they designed.... with monetary bonuses.... they are the biggest bunch of low-life hypocrites. I hope that they get my message here. I hope that in the end, they go bankrupt, and from there... out of business. What goes around... comes around..

PvtMarlowe
PvtMarlowe

I say that EA is better because they always making realistic games like BF3 , but in making stories i bet Activision because they have made Cpt. Price and Cpt. Soap Macstavish. 

OneSamTwoCups
OneSamTwoCups

I stopped caring about Activision when they ruined the Tony Hawk games. I would hate EA more but they gave me Skate and Battlefield 3. Activision has given me nothing in the past years.

sirkibble2
sirkibble2

Just let them make games already. This is entertainment. Why in the world is this so complicated. The ones who focus on money, let them focus on money and pay the people the way they are supposed to be paid. A worker is worth their earnings and West and Zampella are certainly worth it. Other than that, let them do their creative job. This really shouldn't be THIS stressful. This is total nonsense.

sexyweapons
sexyweapons

*sigh* looks like this is going to turn into a giant game of "he said" "she said"

super600
super600

This is just sad.Since this is most likely true I hope West and Zampbella own bobby kotick and his lawyers.You can't spy on your employees so you can find a way to get rid of them.

 

sonicare
sonicare

Sam Fisher was also caught attempting to spy.  Apparently, someone flipped on the lights and he was just right there.  I believe Ubisoft may be named in the suit, soon.

Norrie91
Norrie91

Wow just when we thought they couldn't get any lower.

UnwantedSpam
UnwantedSpam

Motherforkers....spying on their ex-employees? Now that's low. Next thing you know, Activision will send out their "spies" to spy on anyone talking bad about their franchises. Talk bad about CoD? Activision's henchmen and Tom Nooks will cart you off to the nearest asylum.

 

With any luck, you might end up in my current asylum. The female nurses are quite attractive, and we have a movie night every Thursday, plus Pizza Fridays!!! 

hampton2003
hampton2003

"EA settles out of court with Activision."

 

Ive always read settlements headlines as the first person mentioned is the one who pays out to avoid losing bigger in court.

 

Then you state: "Activision has dropped the $400 million claim against EA"......"Although the terms of the settlement were not disclosed"

 

If the terms were not disclosed, who is to say EA settled on anything, and it wasnt the other way around? drop all assumptions, state only the facts please.

SolidSnakeUS42
SolidSnakeUS42

Not only do they treat their own devs like crap, they even resort to spying on them. Goes to show how much they trust anything they have. Kotick must be the most paranoid man in the video game industry.

Cowboy-Bebop
Cowboy-Bebop

"EA settles out of court with Activision." nice spin. I wouldn't call being dropped from the suit a settlement. "terms of the settlement were not disclosed" What settlement?This is still going to court. Anyway, MW2 was hot garbage anyway. West and Zamp screwed the pooch with MW2 especially after how good CoD4 was compared to the rest. Horrible maps aside.

HaloPimp978
HaloPimp978

Activision is so evil. Spying on employees and I thought EA was the worst.

XanderZane
XanderZane

Wow, Activision was having their senior director of information technology spy on West and Zampella to try and catch them in the act so they could fire them. lol!! I'm sure their royalties and bonuses were also based on how many copies they sold. Their bonuses as when as their teams must have been pretty steep, especially if a rich company life Activision doesn't want to pay out bonuses. I'm sure they dropped the suit of EA because that would have been more money wasted on something they knew they couldn't win. That's like you at the poker table with a pair of 2's and a 9 high card. Just throw those puppies in the pile.

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

I'd love to know why EA is no longer on the chopping block. That kind of surprises me. Personally I think Activision's reasons for firing Zampella and West are petty. Since when did it become illegal to look for another job while still being employed. If Activision didn't want more competition then they've shot themselves in the foot because firing the two devs has enabled them to get to work on their new game sooner than allowing contracts to run out.

soulless4now
soulless4now

Spying too? That's low even for Activision. 

dnguyen3
dnguyen3

"Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered"

 

(I don't know who said this quote, just heard it from one of my teachers)

x_hunter00
x_hunter00

Launched an internal investigation? What did West and Zampella do in order  to have an investigation???

EggEmperor
EggEmperor

Snooping as usual, I see? Eh, Activision?

Outer_Raven
Outer_Raven

Well, if this doesn't prove to all those hardcore CoD fanboys that Activision is just pure evil, then I don't know what will. Also, "Operation Icebreaker"?! Seriously?! Ugh...

JayQproductions
JayQproductions

I find it more interesting that Activision is violating Infinity Ward's contract by letting Treyarch make a COD game set in the future. Infinity Ward's contract is still in affect until AFTER the court hearings and in the contract it says no other company besides Infinity Ward, can make a COD game in the post cold war era. If Infinity Ward wins their lawsuit they could ban the selling of Black Ops 2, but I think they would much rather just take royalties from a game they had nothing to do with to help get their new company off the ground.

blacksuperman22
blacksuperman22

I don't know why people seem to think EA is the worst company out there.by far Activision is the most horrible gaming company. they destroyed the Tony Hawk Franchise and the Guitar Hero Franchise, their CEO is A complete Dumbass, and any game they develop besides COD is complete crap. I hope Z&W win this lawsuit so they can have some control over MW so we can get some decent MW games.

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

Activision is going to lose this one. If they bring in a character witness for Kotick, it's all over.

Reaverking
Reaverking

LOL. Operation Icebreaker? Idiots

Slash_out
Slash_out

I am not even surprised, Bobby Kotik is just crazzy, selfish and greedy to the extreme, and doesn't  give a shit about his employees, the players, and the games he is making.

It's all about money, nothing else matters, and I mean NOTHING, and I don't mean it in the "good kind of way" other companies go about this (like EA, and Ubisoft with abusive DLC content, and insulting DRM protections as their most evil deeds). If he could add in the license agreement of his games that Activision is allowed to harvest its customers' organs for free, then he would.

MrHatnClogs
MrHatnClogs

COD4 - awesome

WAW- Only memorable thing that kept me playing after beating the single player was the survival mode.

MW2-Broken multiplayer, tons of camping spots, and don't get me started on the noob tubing. Although Hans Zimmer had a great music and the single player was sort of decent, but not as good as COD4's.

BO- just meh, only good thing was the use of realife characters in single player and the survival mode

MW3-Meh

ssdd_again
ssdd_again

So in theory - West and Zampella win>Gain the rights to MW brand>Meaning EA also get the rights>effectively de-valuating the brand to the point where none of the involved parties are interested?.

 

Might actually be a good thing if they win, sick of that cash cow being milked every year because of idiotic sheeples.

 

lock445
lock445

Activision, you are about to get destroyed by the legal system, and subsequently lose your reputation, and subsequently collapse as a company. Perhaps if you didn't deal in dirty business practices, didn't disrespect your consumers, and the game industry, none of this would be occurring. Not that EA is a whole lot better. Go indie!

bgranli
bgranli

I read about this over at Gamasutra, and I was truly disgusted about what I rea, because the quotes and information revealed there paints an even uglier picture of the situation.

 

According to Thomas Fenady, Bobby Kotek wanted Fenady to "dig up dirt on Jason and Vince" because “we're sick of dealing with those guys, their ego... we just want to get rid of them." These orders allegedly came from George Rose, as mentioned here in this article as well. He also wanted Fenady to tap into their computers, and Rose stated "Bobby [Kotick] will take care of you. This comes from Bobby directly... Don't worry about the repercussions."

 

To read the rest of the article:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/170469/Report_Activision_tried_to_get_rid_of_exInfinity_Ward_heads_through_IT_brute_force.php

vault-boy
vault-boy

 @PvtMarlowe Realism=bad just so you know. Thing is though CoD and Battlefield are both stupid as shit by this point so who the fuck cares?

3v1LR0n1N
3v1LR0n1N

 @OneSamTwoCups activision gave you...... no wait..... i know they made........ no that was capcom....... oky i'll have to agree :P

Ronaldo27
Ronaldo27

@UnwantedSpam: Activision was spying them at the time they were working at the company. As much as I don't like it, if the limited the search to corporate e-mails and correspondence, it could well be totally legal.

Sepewrath
Sepewrath

 @PlatinumPaladin Well depending on contracts, it can be. Like in the MLB, another team couldn't start talks with a manager who was still under contract with a team. Its a conflict of interest.

dlCHIEF58
dlCHIEF58

 @JayQproductions 

 

Well that all depends upon if the requirements for that agreement were for Infinity Ward as a developer or if the agreement was specifically with West and Zampella. If it was with Infinity Ward, Activision can effectively null and void that agreement since they now have the developer stocked with their own hand picked drones and still own that development house. 

XanderZane
XanderZane

 @Slash_out

Many of the companies are all about the money now. Especially with the economy as bad as it has been. All these companies are trying to nickle and dime the gamers. This is even lower then what I thought Activision could do. I thought it was foolish for Infinity Ward to go with Activision in the first. play. I'm surprised Microsoft or Epic didn't snap them up. I don't see how Activision can win this unless they have some good witnesses or some other documentation no one knows about.

Ronaldo27
Ronaldo27

@MrHatnClogs: I almost agree with you. I thought MW2 campaign was so filled with inconsistences, unbelievable behavior, pointless military objectives, and impossible to pull out operations that I personally felt insulted as the developers clearly assumed their audience to be stupid.

dlCHIEF58
dlCHIEF58

 @ssdd_again 

 

Not necessarily, Respawn is still an independent developer that is no owned in any way, shape. or form by EA. They have a publishing deal for their first game, but that is it. It would be up to Respawn to decide on their publisher if they made a Modern Warfare game. There is a good chance that EA would publish and distribute it, but they would have absolutely no creative control. 

Valas_Azuviir
Valas_Azuviir

 @Ronaldo27 

 

Managed to get some additional details elsewhere, that Gamespot left out of this article for some reason.

 

a) They apparently asked Microsofts help, but the latter refused to do so without a court order.

 

b) They also apparently asked their security firm InGuardians to do it, they responded with that they weren't prepared to tackle the "legal hurdles."

 

Spying on the internal e-mail system is fully legal, but considering that comment, as well as them trying to involve Microsoft, I'm guessing that they had hotmail accounts.

 

Now considering that this came from Activision's chief legal officer, well, if true, then someone should be disbarred for life a la Jack Thompson.

UnwantedSpam
UnwantedSpam

 @Ronaldo27 I was actually joking around in my comment. No need to take it too seriously :P

super600
super600

They were attempting to spy on them illegally, but they didn't.\

PlatinumPaladin
PlatinumPaladin

@Sepewrath Fair enough. Makes sense. Another example of my complete lack of sporting knowledge making me look stupid.

method115
method115

 @PlatinumPaladin  @Sepewrath Yea a lot of companies do this as well. I've heard (didn't verify if it was true or not) that Lowes and home depot have a non compete clause for their employees i.e home depot employees cant go to lowes and vice versa.