Activision, Valve tangle over 2002 lawsuit

Half-Life developer sues Sierra parent company for skimping on arbitrator-assigned multimillion-dollar settlement over royalty rights.


In the game industry, sometimes it feels like lawsuits have a half-life on par with carbon-14. So it is with a 2002 dispute between Valve and former publisher Sierra Entertainment over the latter company's unauthorized licensing of games such as Half-Life to cyber cafes around the world.

Can't we all just get along?
Can't we all just get along?

The Valve-Vivendi dispute yielded three years of claims and counter-claims until the pair finally reached a settlement in 2005. The subsequent agreement called for an arbitration process that itself dragged out until earlier this month, when the arbitrator said that Valve was owed nearly $2.4 million in back royalties. That sum was to be paid by Activision in light of the publisher's merger with Sierra parent Vivendi Games, finalized last July.

As reported by GamePolitics, Valve has filed suit this week in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, claiming that Activision declined to pay out the whole award. Specifically, the Half-Life 2 developer claimed that the Guitar Hero publisher is withholding some $424,000 of the payment, saying that it previously overpaid royalties to the studio.

Valve also said that Activision threatened to file a separate suit seeking that aforementioned overpayment money if the publisher's short-changing on the arbitration award was challenged in court. The developer is asking a judge to force Activision to pay up the remaining amount, with 1 percent-per-month compound interest tacked on, as well as attorney's fees. Valve is also seeking a declaration that Activision may not sue to retrieve its alleged royalty overpayment in the future.

Activision has been involved with numerous lawsuits as of late. The past several years have seen the massive publisher cross legal swords with THQ, Harmonix, Viacom, guitar maker Gibson, Turning Point developer Spark Unlimited, a few former RedOctane employees, some of its shareholders, and several irate customers.

As of press time, representatives with Valve and Activision had not returned GameSpot's request for comment.

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Avatar image for michel6

I knew the modern WoW fiasco had a finger of Activision. Now I am sure.

Avatar image for unnamed475

Activision needs to sit on one of their plastic guitars, and just go lie down in the street. I hope the company goes bankrupt and their CEO rots in the lowest layer's of hell, the one reserved for child rapest, and people who talk at the theater.

Avatar image for whizeguy

Wow, just WOW, Activision is officially the worst, most evil company. I think they have surpassed Blizzard, EA, and Disney in the worst, most evil departments.

Avatar image for hurricaner

I think Activision is STILL pissed about the 2002 lawsuit

Avatar image for silvergun2

hahaha activision sucks ass

Avatar image for SocialAnXieTy

My God Activision, give it up.

Avatar image for thisisreallybor

no. this is just a political lawsuit. if valve gets sued for their money, it might put a damper on release date of HL2:E3, but it clearly won't in this case

Avatar image for s2-sohaib

Well this effect on releasing half-life 2 episode 3?

Avatar image for thenephariouson

@Naked_Shooter "$500k? Seriously? Isn't that like pocket change for a studio like Valve? Couldn't they just let it go?" Same could be said of Activision i guess, "Couldnt they just pay them?"

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Naked_Shooter : I think any game developer can use that money.

Avatar image for StaxMurphy

(at Naked_Shooter) if someone owed you $10 and they said they would pay you back and they didn't, would you be upset? $10 isn't much but money is money.

Avatar image for Naked_Shooter

$500k? Seriously? Isn't that like pocket change for a studio like Valve? Couldn't they just let it go?

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hotbodyboy_2006, I expect it to be released Q4 2009 - moreso at the backend such as December - if all goes well.

Avatar image for hotbodyboy_2006

Activision can now only depend upon prototype. But seriously when are we getting HL 2 EP 3? Every time i get any updates regarding valve, i expect Episode 3!

Avatar image for rob_devitt

Insane00, If you spent as much time reading the item as you did googling the half lif of c14 you would realise that it's used correctly in this case that the court case is dragging on for years and is still not finished!!

Avatar image for Insane00

Activision, like most large companies, is more likely to be sued now than ever. It is so large that it will find itself a target if nothing else. Though as a big company it also has the resources to fight such lawsuits and pull stunts like this. One would think that the previous decision took into light all royalty payments already given to valve. On another note, C14 has a half life of over 5000 years. While the analogy may have been referring to C14's short half life compared to most natural radioactive isotopes, it seems poorly written on gamespot's part.

Avatar image for Glade_Gnarr

Not like activision can't pay valve, considering the cash cow that is guitar hero.

Avatar image for Wardrift

Valve has been involved in several lawsuits as of late. Can't recall if they were ever resolved or are still on-going as well.

Avatar image for nappan

@AnarchyRising: Heh, kinda sad when a company has a history of losing lawsuits for good reasons that is so long, it sets a real precedent from which you can predict... ;)

Avatar image for equili3rium

This is what happens when companies take advantage.

Avatar image for nyranasaurus

This is where i hate companies merging together , this is always the result of this kind of stuff. There should be a law that companies arent allowed to take over other companies.

Avatar image for PurpuhlRowboht

The guys at Activision sure sound like a bunch of trouble makers. With a history of lawsuits like that, they should give up and pay Valve already. There is no reason not to if they don't deny that it was a bad thing that they have done. They're just stalling... and that pisses off Gordon Freeman.

Avatar image for AnarchyRising

Seeing their lawsuit history, I'd say Activision is probably faulted. But yeah it should be easy to track down lack of payments. But just as easy to forge fake ones. So who knows. Seems a bit cat and mouse to me personally.

Avatar image for FarmFreshDX

It's so unlike Activision to want to sue for money and withhold it from someone else. /sarcasm

Avatar image for markop2003

This should be resolved pretty quickly, it's not hard to see if the payments haven't been made.

Avatar image for thenephariouson

Nephilim83, I can say what i like about TPS games (what the hell does my Avatar have to do with it?) as ive played quite a few, as i like to give a game the benefit of the doubt before making MY decision, and in all cases i find that they are just not for me, they are all fundamentally the same (make new allies with different skills / abilities etc) then jaunt around the world meeting new enemies which you must dispatch with your various spells, magical weapons etc, all wrapped up in gigabytes of flashy FMV. Regarding 'Steam', as this was developed by a games developer and not a dedicated service i do see this innovative in the fact that no other DEV has thought of it. You show me any dev that takes the same stance by Providing FREE DLC and im not talking about a simple 'skin' addon, and would even dare to place 5 top notch games on 1 disk for the asking price of 1, and ill give that dev the same respect! I also recpect your opinion regarding L4D, however in my opinion its simply a really good laugh when playing with friends, although graphically inferior to say, Res5, in playability terms, i think is p****** all over it. What you also have to remember is that VALVe are one of only a very few devs in that every game they have made thus far has been a massive success, they just dont seem to make mediocre games, this is not only my opinion but is also that of MILLIONS of other people. This is by no means to say that your opinion is wrong by any means, but is ultimately your opinion to which you are entitled, as am i.

Avatar image for metalisticpain

Go get em valve. @Shakensparco This occured before the economy went bad, and We rooting for valve because they are clearly, and proven to be owed that amount. Activision is just being petty imo.

Avatar image for shakensparco

I hope people aren't just pulling for Valve just because they make good games. That's like voting for Obama just because he is black. That's a terrible reason to help determine the leader of our country (Not that I have anything against him). I guess when the economy is bad, it's dog-eat-dog. You don't get the food, you die.

Avatar image for Evil-Assassinz

Personally I hope Valve wins this cause they are such a great company, they make quality A+ games like counter strike, L4D, HL, HL2, TF2 and Portal. I also like there marketplace Steam. So yes I will adimit i am kinda of a Valve fanboy.

Avatar image for EarthwormJohnUK

can't we all just get along?. half-life (in all of it's iterations) rules and i'm grateful for anything half life related. And Valve are amazing... enough said. Surely we all agree on that.

Avatar image for Nephilim83

@Santinegrete "And dont come with the crap of fanboy because I'm more informed than you or I remember better my arguments. Remember: Antology release =/= new version" No it doesn't. An anthology of half-life is still half-life. Its just an updated version, and that was my point. Constlantly going through and revamping the same old game is nice, but isn't it better to release something new from time to time? Even though OpFor and BluShift play like mods they are still based on the same exact thing. I'm not dissing that, I'm just saying that this is the stuff I was referring to when I said they had "several" different versions of Half-life. Maybe our concepts of "version" differ, but it doesn't change the fact that I know what I'm talking about. And I really don't like to argue, but I don't care for someone talking like I don't what I'm saying. You may know more about Half-life than me (kudos), but I know enough to support what I'm saying. Anyway, peace be with you man. I'm done here.

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@Nephilim83: Dude! I know all of them, played all of them, and hoped you can see the difference before saying "several versions of Half Life". Didn't you recongnize I mentioned Gearbox and the mods? well... OpFor runs like a mod. You just proved you like to argue. Half Life (last ver. before steam) and the others created by Gearbox software and Black Widow Games; I'm really happy you can tell the difference from one on another, played them, and not calling them "just another half Life version" (at least right now! not like in previous messages, huh?) because opposing force was a real example of what an expansion pack should be when it was released. That's why it's not "just another version of Half Life1". Didn't you recongnize I mentioned Gearbox and the mods? well... OpFor runs like a mod. You just proved you like to argue. And dont come with the crap of fanboy because I'm more informed than you or I remember better my arguments. Remember: Antology release =/= new version. I agree with your POV of Steam though.

Avatar image for Nephilim83

@Thenephariouson "The real issue here is simply that you dont like FPS's, thats fine and is your own personal preference & opinion, the fact that i would rather remove my head to then lick my **** rather than play a mind numbing TBS is mine" I never said I didn't like FPSs. I said they're not really my thing. Currently, however, I'm playing KillZone 2 like there's no tomorrow. I'm not dissing Half-life. I enjoyed the game as well as all the different versions I've played. I loved Portal. Left4Dead was a bore-fest after a while, but that's my opinion. You don't have to like it. You're also not going to convince me that Valve is the greatest most innovative developer in existense, either. What's this about Steam being changing the way games are distributed? You ever hear of a little thing called Gamefly? WAY ahead of Steam. Anyway, whenever you are faced with the challenge of playing a TPS and decide to remove your head at least you won't have to go too far to lick the thing you just removed it from. Honestly, how can you say anything negative about a TPS when you have Marcus Fenix from Gears of War as your avatar? That's rediculously funny.

Avatar image for Nephilim83

@santingrete Actually there are a few more. Ever hear of Opposing Force? Blue Shift?They are the same game (Half-life) told from the POV of different characters. Remember that guard banging on the door during the intro on the rail car in half-life? Yeah, that's the very guard you play as in Blue-Shift. Did I mention 'They Hunger'? Or what about the various anthologies and collections? I didn't even know about Half-life Source. Anyway, do me a favor before you try to make me look stupid and go up to search at the top of the page and type in Half-life. Come back and tell me how many versions you find. Don't worry though: There's a lot of useful things to know.

Avatar image for equili3rium

It's about time VALVe created another FPS franchise with a great story. We know they can give us the goods and marry it with great gameplay. Or even take a step sideways with Half-Life and give us some great puzzles again with a different setting. There are times when Steam bugs the hell out of me but overall it is a great achievement and something to be proud of.

Avatar image for santinegrete

@Nephilim83: "There are several different versions of Half-life 1 alone." You mean only two of them? Half Life and Half Life Source? that's "several"? cut the crap man, you only said "several" because Valve (and Gearbox) made another two games with the Same GoldSource engine. It looks like you never played them, and you are just whining because you saw 4 games too alike visually and thought they were the same. There's far more in Half Life than meets the eye with the mods. But of course you are not a "FPS fan". Not problem with that: I can see perfectly why you didn't know it. Don't worry though: there's a lot of useful things to know.

Avatar image for thenephariouson

@Nephilim83, "I didn't say that other developers didn't milk their franchises for all they're worth. I said that's ALL Valve does. Period." Ok, i see what your getting at, VALVe's first game to my knowledge was Half-Life, now, this game totally re-defined the FPS (Single Player) format, due to its absoloute success and re-definition of the genre, it simply made sense to continue the story in an episodic format in the form of HL-ep1 & ep2. They have however made un-related HL games within this time Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, TF1, TF2, Portal, L4D not to mention the fact that they have also redefined the way games are distributed (STEAM), does'nt change the fact that VALVe are without a doubt the most innovative games Dev around. Hell, regarding 'Milking of a franchise' you could say the same about NINTENDO, just because they have made and will always make MARIO games, i could easily say 'Thats all they do' same goes for CAPCOM (SF series) and loads of devs (SE with FF series) however most of them are simply not as original or as innovative, or as customer focused as VALVe. The real issue here is simply that you dont like FPS's, thats fine and is your own personal preference & opinion, the fact that i would rather remove my head to then lick my **** rather than play a mind numbing TBS is mine.

Avatar image for Luthmann_D

My heart almost stopped when I saw there was an Half Life 2: Episode 3 update. It's a shame that's it's only a lawsuit. Anyway, let me quote: 'Can't we just all get along?'

Avatar image for thekey

Activision may soon be joining it's now defucted video game series dolphin.

Avatar image for nappan

Oh don't thumb him down, he admitted he wasn't a fan of FPSs! That's more than most do on these boards. Sheesh, everyone is a critic.

Avatar image for nappan

@Nephilim83: If you don't like FPSs... and Valve's only IPs are either FPSs or based on them... why care at all? It's like someone who loathes SRPGs *****ing out Disgaea. There's also no need to be sarcastic, I'm not a fanboy of anything. I like HL a lot, especially Team Fortress, but while I appreciated Portal, I didn't find it fun. I don't play much of either... Anyway, that doesn't keep me from appreciating the contributions to PC gaming. The nature of a fanboy is just as you mocked... someone who thinks nothing ELSE can compare. I don't think that, but even in perspective HL2 was very impressive. Oh, and don't get all tetchy because you weren't clear ;) . Someone who's avatar is one of the Collossus should be more... calm and open minded.

Avatar image for Nephilim83

@nappan Oh, christ, nevermind. Im sorry. Valve is the GREATEST!!!! ALL HAIL VALVE!!! RULERS OF GAMING!!!! NO ONE SHALL DIS THEM FOR LORD FREEMAN SHALL SMITE THEE ACROSS THINE ARSE!!!!!! Half-life isn't really my thing, I guess. For that matter, neither are FPSs. But you're right. They're great. I should have known better than to say anything. The only thing touchier than an Xbox fanboy is a Half-life fanboy. And obviously there's no winning here. PEACE

Avatar image for nappan

@Faephoenix_Eyes: It's not that Activision is LARGE... it's that they're flogging boring franchises, peddling DLC, etc... like EA used to. It's about their behaviour, which is amplified by their size. As for Halo 3... I don't know how people play it when so many better shooter sof all kinds are out for the 360, PS3, and PC.

Avatar image for nappan

@Nephilim83: How many great games does a developer need to make (HL, HL2 + eps, TF 2, CS: Source, PORTAL...), even if they're based on the same IP, or engine to be great in your mind? They've made two of the best FPS' in gaming history, out of which the two most popular mods of all time were born (TF, CS). I remember the days of Action Quake... HL was a HUGE step forward. Then there's Portal. Oh, and Steam, which for all of its flaws is still a gamer's friend and a model for other Digital Distributers. Other people might be talking as though Valve invented pong and PoP... but that isn't an excuse for you to sell them horibly short.

Avatar image for Faephoenix_Eyes

You guys just keep on picking on the largest companies eh? Activision is like old EA blah blah just cause they became the world's largest gaming company? What is wrong with you people and your hatred for the giants? Seriously. Anyways @ those who play Halo 3, no offense but i found that game just didnt give me any fun compared to Left 4 Dead, overhype FTL imo. But i think people should all just stop it with these suits and make money through selling games instead of this stupid law stuff. Alot of these lawsuit crap started popping up ever since the economy went bad, coincidence? god knows.

Avatar image for Nephilim83

@ thenephariouson I didn't say that other developers didn't milk their franchises for all they're worth. I said that's ALL Valve does. Period. There are several different versions of Half-life 1 alone. Portal was cool. I never said their games weren't good. I'm just making the point that they're not the greatest. People act like Valve is the greatest developer ever. Sure, they helped inlfuence the inclusion of more narrative in our FPSs, and I think that's great; but doesn't make them video game gods. No offense, guys, their games are just mediocre in comparison to TONS of other things.

Avatar image for starhawk55

@DarthEthong467 Whatever floats your boat; me...I don't like feeding the trolls. They ten to multiply and start flame was. But then I have been playing video games for 20 years, and have had more than enough fan boys/girls over the years.

Avatar image for starhawk55

Oh, and in case it wasn't clear I meant: ronson12 = troll About the law suites, *sigh* its all about money. I have played Sierra games since the DOS era, and they are a shell of what they used to be. Valve has stumbled on a really good way to make money with Steam, so of course (right or wrong) Sierra wants a piece. Then add in the whole element of trying to stick somebody with the bill... Phun. I know this will be worked out in the end, I just hope there isn't so much bad blood that we don't continue to see more Half-Life.

Avatar image for starhawk55

@ DarthEthong467 troll As used on the Internet: 1) As a verb, the practice of trying to lure other Internet users into sending responses to carefully-designed incorrect statements or similar "bait." In a real example, a Usenet newsgroup contributor mentioned the discovery of an ancient African carving containing a list of prime numbers. The contributor further listed some of the prime numbers found and included some numbers that, in fact, are not prime numbers. Other contributors then sent serious replies, correcting the list of prime numbers cited. Don't feed the trolls, and they go away LOL.