EA added to Activision's Zampella/West suit

Battlefield publisher now co-defendant in $400 million cross-complaint; rival contends newly unsealed documents point to conspiracy--including delay of Modern Warfare 2 map pack.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

In late December, Activision announced it was seeking to add Electronic Arts as a co-defendant to its countersuit against former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West. According to a copy of the cross-complaint provided by the Call of Duty publisher, EA tampered with West and Zampella, inducing the pair to break their existing contracts with Activision so their new studio, Respawn Entertainment, could sign with EA Partners. Activision is asking for $400 million in damages as a result.

EA is now a co-defendant in the West/Zampella/Activision lawsuit.
EA is now a co-defendant in the West/Zampella/Activision lawsuit.

Today, Activision informed GameSpot that the court has granted its request to add EA as a co-defendant for the trial, which begins on May 23. The publisher's attorney also contended that several unsealed documents that were previously redacted point to a conspiracy by EA to disrupt and tamper with Infinity Ward employees under contract--including West and Zampella.

The amended, unsealed cross-complaint accuses EA of maintaining a list of Infinity Ward prospects, including Jason West and "dozens" of other Infinity Ward employees, for internal discussions "on recruiting from Activision (Infinity Ward)" on August 5, 2009. The following day, EA CEO John Riccitiello allegedly met with Creative Artist Agency's Seamus Blackley to "enlist CAA's assistance in courting West and Zampella…and interfering with West and Zampella's contracts with Activision."

That was allegedly followed by a weeks-long wooing of West and Zampella by Blackley and EA, as was made public by the previous, redacted version of the cross-complaint. In late August 2009, "West and [EA COO John] Schappert had a direct exchange in which they acknowledged CAA was 'working to set up a meeting' among West, Zampella, Schappert, and Riccitiello."

According to the unredacted version of the complaint, on August 25, 2009, Schappert e-mailed Riccitiello saying, "FYI though looks like Seamus has it in hand and Vince/Jason are aligned which is good." Riccitiello replied, "Excellent, you should meet them separate and join me. More angles is good."

On August 28, 2009, EA sent a private jet to fly West and Zampella to San Francisco, where they met Riccitiello at his home. The pair later admitted they told EA they had over two years left on their exclusive contracts with Activision.

Activision also contends that CAA then arranged for the pair to be represented by Harold Brown, an attorney and former member of Activision's board. For the next several months and into winter 2009, Activision alleges that West and Zampella spoke with CAA agents weekly.

During the second week of November 2009, an EA executive reportedly informed Brown that he was meeting to "discuss deal structures" and would "get with" Brown later in the week. Days later, an e-mail from Blackley to Riccitiello included in the complaint said, "We need to talk about our two friends down here--all is good but it's time for a more aggressive approach."

Two weeks later, according to another e-mail included in the complaint, vice president of EA Partners Sinjin Bain sent out an e-mail to EA Games president Frank Gibeau, director of business development Daniel Sherman, and EA Partners vice president David De Martini with a subject line "meeting action items…" One such item is "IW - Dan will send out email to JR with term sheet for JR to approve Joel to forward to Harold Brown."

Another e-mail included in the complaint was sent out by EA's executive vice president of legal and business affairs Joel Linzner to Harold Brown with the subject "NewCo Terms" saying, "Attached is a form of term sheet for a proposed dev/pub deal for your clients ('NewCo') to consider assuming they are free of any contractual commitments on their services and the IP they would develop under the deal."

According to another e-mail included in the document, senior director of global marketing at EA DICE Lincoln Hershberger sent out an e-mail to Gibeau, senior vice president of marketing at Electronic Arts Jeff Karp, EALA general manager Sean Decker, and EA Europe senior vice president Patrick Soderlund that said the following:

"A couple months ago, I asked Vince to hold back their map pack until after we launched (he owes me one). Given that they've already made a billion, he was cool with that, obviously Kotick took it as being belligerent."

Activision's lawyers contend that the e-mail is proof that EA was interfering with the release of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 map pack, trying to postpone it until the release of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. On this last point, though, EA's vice president of communications, Jeff Brown, has a completely different take.

"This was obviously sarcasm," he told GameSpot. "It's clear from the email this was a joke and they never spoke. We explained this to lawyers at Activision--who apparently don't have much of a sense of humor." EA declined to comment on any other aspect of the complaint, however.

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