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.
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.

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