West, Zampella add fraud charges to Activision suit

Former Infinity Ward heads tack on new charges in ongoing Modern Warfare dispute with publisher; seek to regain control of franchise through voided contract.

The days continue to tick away until Activision's court date with former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West, but much still remains in flux. Last month, Activision succeeded in adding West and Zampella's purported coconspirator Electronic Arts to its $400 million countersuit. Today, West and Zampella added two counts of fraud to their original complaint, which was initially filed shortly after the duo was fired in March 2010.

Fraud may not amount to a war crime, but it's certainly a concern in the civil theater.

In the amended complaint (a copy of which was obtained by GameSpot), West and Zampella allege that in March 2008, Activision entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the two then-Infinity Ward heads. According to the complaint, the MOU sought to secure their continued employment not only for their talent but also as an effort to close its impending merger with Vivendi.

The contract was designed to "address issues of significant concern to West and Zampella, particularly in the area of creative authority over the Modern Warfare games and the creation of a look, feel, and brand for the Modern Warfare games," the amended complaint reads. In addition to creative control, the MOU laid out a bonus plan that was tied to operating income generated by a set of eligible games, including Modern Warfare 2.

The complaint also emphasizes that Activision offered West and Zampella this deal because their continued employment was of vital importance to closing the Vivendi deal. "To protect its interest in consummating its merger with Vivendi Games, Activision needed to do everything it could to keep West and Zampella content with their responsibilities and compensation at Infinity Ward. This gave West and Zampella considerable bargaining power in their negotiations with Activision," the complaint states.

West and Zampella claim in their amended complaint that they remained skeptical of this contract, as Activision had been less than committed to promises of greater autonomy and independence in the past. Through negotiations, though, West and Zampella claim they secured a deal that would see them having final say over any Modern Warfare-branded game or licensing activity.

However, as part of the final contract, Activision included a stipulation that this creative control and financial incentives were subject to West and Zampella's continued employment. The two allege that they expressed skepticism over this section, questioning whether they would simply be fired to circumvent the clause. To this concern, Kotick allegedly said to the two: "Don't worry about it. It's impossible for you guys to get fired."

Because of these assurances, West and Zampella claim they did not push for a more strongly worded section or commitment from Activision. They subsequently signed the MOU, committing to three more years of employment at Activision under the assumption that they would operate as an independent studio in the vein of Blizzard Entertainment.

As to the new fraud charges, West and Zampella state that they now believe Activision never intended to honor their contract as it pertains to creative authority or the payment of bonuses.

"While paying lip-service to West's and Zampella's creative authority, in 2008 and thereafter, Activision began secret development of Modern Warfare and Call of Duty games and related products, and undertook other conduct in relation to these two videogame franchises that, under the MOU, required prior approval from West and Zampella," the amended complaint reads. "Activision did not inform West or Zampella of such plans or seek their input or approval for them. Indeed, while breaching the creative authority provisions of the MOU, Activision continued to pay lip-service to them, in an attempt to mask its secret development efforts."

Speaking to GameSpot, a lawyer representing West and Zampella indicated that in addition to actual and punitive damages, the two are seeking a rescission of the MOU. If granted, Activision would co-own the Modern Warfare brand with Vince and Zampella, which would give the two the right to release their own copies of the game. A voided contract would also give West and Zampella the right to create new games in the Modern Warfare franchise, he said.

Activision had not responded to a request for comment on the matter as of press time.

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Discussion

345 comments
cornbeef5
cornbeef5

im tired of coming up with new ways to say how much i hate activision's policies towards games, so... *insert generic activision/kotick is satan reborn comment here*

eaglesquad
eaglesquad

sorry guys but west and zampella have lost this one. why? because one of the main charges is that they were plotting with a rival company to create a new studio to make games for said company. they did just that. then they sued and activision counter sued and it got all mental from there. but the main activision charge is true and correct. as for saying immature things like Activision i hate you bla bla bla grow up and stop crying and look at the facts.

Dahima
Dahima

Activision going down

wedran123
wedran123

Goodbye activision....you are more greedy than freaking Smeagol.....And i hope that activision doesnt sell a SINGLE copy of MW3....

Ike_100
Ike_100

I know everyone will hate this, but Infinity Ward is an empty shell. Sledgehammer and Raven will develop the majority of MW3, IW is just to get CoD fans pumped up. To be honest, I don't think we'll get another quality COD game like Call of Duty 4. That game will forever be the last great CoD game ever developed. So until then, I will be getting ready for Battlefield 3. Rock.

ZombieTear
ZombieTear

More power to ya Vince and Jason!! Bobby K needs to be thrown out with the rest of the trash!

blackwing55
blackwing55

JoshGardner you have some good points i do in fact find second chance a bit overpowered although a good enough gamer can really get around it i know for a fact i do. (i play hardcore and normal pub) although that is hardly anything to make the game as unfair as MW2 (unlimited noobtubes really?!) and yes i know that activision wanted the MW2 but that doesnt change the fact that west and zampella are winning a small some of money from activision they know that activision has billions they own almost all of the major games and companies that make them so they are trying to get all the money they can just the same as actvision did with MW2. Personally i don't care if they win or lose i like their games but im getting tired of this bad rep and greed these guys are trying to instill upon both themselves and aligate that towards activision what their really trying to do is get support for their new company while tearing down the competition.

DarkBox360
DarkBox360

Greedy bastards will be greedy bastards. In the end the lawyers don't care who wins, they just want to get paid.

MadGamer132
MadGamer132

Fuel the "hate" fuel the "hate" if activision is "evil' we don't give a ****! do everybody thinks now the 2 and EA in the crossfire in this case are the "heroes/good guys" in this story?.......

wahyudil
wahyudil

if w & Z win ... wow ... this will become very interesting ...

starduke
starduke

Well, W and Z fired off a new shot. Hmm, I wonder what Activision's next volley will be?

lozo777
lozo777

I might wanna see this. I'd probably lol when both sides of the suit start crying.

xmootoo95
xmootoo95

Do these guys spend all day just thinking about new ways they can sue Activision - I mean - come on; are you going to sue people your whole entire life?

pie369
pie369

The only legitimate audience that the cod games have are 8-12 year olds who have no idea what a good game is. (i.e. Half-Life 2, MGS series, all FF games except 13, GoW(either one(Gears or God)), SC2, Civ, L4D, RE, KZ, UNCHARTED, LBP, AC, KotOR, Sims, and GTA) All of these are one hundred times better than CoD, which has crap servers, garbage voice acting, and bad graphics (MGS 3 on the PS2 looked better than CoD Black Ops does now) CoD and Madden arent the only games out there.

mtait01
mtait01

i hope activision lose... but that still won't affect us in any way shape or form.

pie369
pie369

Activision is a crap company anyway and needs to go out of business, they screw up good games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Guitar Hero and CoD, which is possibly the worst game ever.

patcoolchenko
patcoolchenko

If you disagree with what Activision is doing/did then don't buy their games. Thats what I'm going to do. Ok, I might buy Bungie's new game, but thats it :)

Takeno456
Takeno456

I hate how every article that has any mention of CoD in any way turns into raging a free for all. When it gets down to it this case is about money. Everyone who is involved with this case is in it for the money and nothing more. Another case of the rich fighting over who needs more millions and we the consumer are left with what ever product they choose to sell us regardless of quality.

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

Sounds like Bobby has been premeditating his jerkery as much as 3 years ago.

sgt-hawkins
sgt-hawkins

josh you gotta think, you said one perk is unbalenced mw2 had like 4 perks that were bull and unbalenced.

JoshGardner
JoshGardner

@blackwing55 Maybe you should really honesty look at Black Ops again...yes MW2 was unbalanced, but so is Black Ops. I mean come on, that forsaken Second Chance perk is total bullcrap. I can put a guy in "second chance" and apparently a human can a foot into the air and pistol whip the shooter and get him before you hit the ground or get k*lled by the original shooter. Yes, I do love how Treyarch does fix the problems with their multiplayer, but until they fix the obvious unbalanced and overpowering Second Chance perk, they aren't listening to the players cries for change. And, as for you West/Zampella milking statement please get your bloody facts straight. That was all Activision, not them. They really didn't even want to do a second MW. It was the dollar signs that came in to that dick Kotick's eyes; one of the biggest worms in the video game industry does it again.

the_requiem
the_requiem

So, it all boils down to West/Zampella being convinced by Kotick's verbal assurance... really? If West/Zampella really thought Kotick's word was good enough, they deserve to be effed in the a.

JoshGardner
JoshGardner

@Kirintar Nice contradiction...maybe you should look into what all has happened before you speak. I agree with you 100% Activision can pump out good games...as long as they aren't milked like pretty much every series they have on the market. But, take a look at the current staff of IW; most have left IW to join Respawn Entertainment, which is West/Zampella's new company. So, yes, it should be returned to the team that made it, but make sure you understand that it was created by all the IW defected employees. Oh, Activision when will you learn that you can't screw with gamers and get away with it.

vader501st
vader501st

The Modern Warfare francise belongs to West/Zampella. Deal with it, Activision. Even if they have to take out the "Call of Duty" brand from the MW series (like it almost happened with F.E.A.R. 2 years ago), but PLEASE, leave this great series where it belongs: with its creators.

bschroth
bschroth

In the interest of good games I hope that West & Zampella win.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

@ChHarker Without wars these games wouldn't exist :p

Frimmel
Frimmel

So how much bonus were/are West and Zampella owed? That is how much royalty on MW2? That figure alone might indicate the willingness of Activision to act in bad faith to these guys.

ChHarker
ChHarker

Please, make games, not wars.

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

So this whole mess started when people showed up at Infinity Ward offices on march 1st in search of Jason west and Vince Zampella. They were apparently there to escort them off the premises when they had actually had actually been missing since they met with Activision earlier that day. It was soon confirmed they had in fact been let-go during the meeting with Activision and had not returned to work. West and Zampella were accused of insubordination and breach of fiduciary duty in a prior investigation but weren't given clear and concrete examples of where they had failed and instead insisted, that West and Zampella already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done.

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

The Memorandum of Understanding is the contract set between Infinity Ward and Activision that gave Infinity Ward many privileges concerning the Modern Warfare franchise. The Memorandum of Understanding gives West and Zampella creative authority over the Modern Warfare brand, or any game set in the post-Vietnam War era. It also gives West and Zampella the right to accept or decline any game that is commercially released under that era, along with complete control of the Infinity Ward studio. The MOU also gave West and Zampella the right to create other IPs after Modern Warfare 2, and promised to pay them compensation and royalties for Modern Warfare 2 and any such games, along with royalties for Activisions use of Infinity Ward technology. Lastly, the MOU promised compensation to the Infinity Ward employees for their work on Modern Warfare 2. The unfortunate and underlying problem here is that West and Zampella were fired shortly before they were to receive large royalties for the work they did on the series. This makes Activision appear to be money-hungry, and the implications are that Activision may have had their termination planned for quite a long time.

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

In the past - According to Activision, its plans include: forming a dedicated business unit that will bring together its various new brand initiatives, expanding the Call of Duty brand, with a already released new Call of Duty game through its Treyarch development studio this fall, and the release of two map packs developed by Infinity Ward for Modern Warfare 2 already out. So whether this is actually shady business by Activision or not, this seems like a a big step towards destroying the Call of Duty name. Though it should be well aware among us that many people didnt recognize that someone other than Infinity Ward created Call of Duty: World at War, it was easy to tell that the game wasnt nearly as good as the Modern Warfare series. And that is a clear testament to the great work that Infinity Ward does on its games. If Activision does win the case and gains control of the franchise, then they will surely destroy the name of Call of Duty by creating sub-par experiences that detract from the sterling reputation that Modern Warfare gave the IP. If Activision loses and has to give the rights over to West and Zampella, then they have lost the biggest money maker they have. It is also very likely that we have seen the last of the Modern Warfare series, or at least as we know it.

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

It is fairly common knowledge now that West and Zampella werent thrilled about making a second Modern Warfare game, but seemed to fancy the idea of developing a new IP. If West and Zampella keep creative authority over the brand then we may see Modern Warfare on hold or see it take a new direction all together. The bottom line here is that regardless of what we may feel or think about either party we shouldnt point any fingers until we have at least both sides of the story. Hopefully some agreement can be reached to make sure that gamers are getting the respect they deserve, but I wouldnt expect this fight to end well. Either way, it will be interesting to see where Call of Duty goes after this.

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

This lawsuit nonsense is nearly becoming as repetitive as the games..

mrhagane
mrhagane

I wonder, why activision and west/zampella didn't settle this problem by playing Cod Multiplayer

Andy9Beans
Andy9Beans

Oh great, more 'meh'! This continued legal wrangling is almost as mind-numbing as the MW fanboys still whinging on about MW2.

Kirintar
Kirintar

Activision sells quality games, but consumes the souls of all who enter the deal. I really hope they win this lawsuit and get Modern Warfare back in the hands of the team that made the franchise.

Animatronic64
Animatronic64

@hkgsgjholfjkpj Um, where you trying to make a point with that? Almost every war is a military conflict (A.K.A. war). World War II is considered a conflict, too. However, no one calls it that, because It's a war, just like the Vietnam War is.

andyslaker
andyslaker

That's what you get when you sell your soul. Years in court.

TheCyborgNinja
TheCyborgNinja

I hope West and Zampella win this one. The brand is in the toilet, and has been headed there after the awesomeness that was 4. A return to form is only possible without Activision.