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Court Filings Detail $36 Million Infinity Ward Lawsuit

Court documents revealed more about the breakdown of the relationship between Activision and wholly-owned Modern Warfare studio Infinity Ward, whose founders are seeking $36 million plus other damages.

Kris Graft, Contributor

March 5, 2010

3 Min Read

Court documents have revealed more about the breakdown of the relationship between Activision and wholly-owned Modern Warfare studio Infinity Ward. After Activision fired Infinity Ward studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, the pair filed a lawsuit on March 3 against Activision, as detailed previously by a press release from their attorney. But the actual filing, available at IGN, additionally showed that the two plaintiffs are seeking $36 million, plus royalties. The documents also accused Activision of strong-arm tactics and an alleged unwillingness to honor previous agreements. Along with compensation, West and Zampella are also seeking the contractual rights that "Activision granted to" the studio heads to control the Modern Warfare brand – the most recent iteration, November's Modern Warfare 2, generated $1 billion on its own, while the Call of Duty brand, which originated at Infinity Ward but also saw iterations from other studios, has generated over $3 billion in sales. "This lawsuit is solely and regrettably the result of the astonishing arrogance and unbridled greed of defendant Activision," the pair's lawsuit claimed. "Plaintiffs Jason West and Vince Zampella are among the most talented and successful video game developers in the world. They created for Activision two video game franchises, Call of Duty and Modern Warfare, that became the most successful in the company's – indeed the industry's – history, lining Activision's pockets with billions [emphasis theirs] of dollars in revenue and creating a diehard fan base in the millions." The suit said that Activision's alleged refusal to compensate isn't surprising, "given that Activision is run by a CEO who has been publicly quoted as believing that the best way to run a video game company is to engender a culture of 'skepticism, pessimism and fear,' and who prefers to pay his lawyers instead of his employees." The plaintiffs also accused Activision of forcing Infinity Ward to develop last year's Modern Warfare 2 at a "break neck pace under aggressive schedules," and intruding on the creative process of game development. This was allegedly in contrast to Activision's assurance that it would allow Infinity Ward to be run as an independent studio, despite being a subsidiary."West and Zampella were concerned that Activision was emphasizing quantity over quality," the suit said. Under those circumstances, the two were "not eager to extend their employment," even as their latest game won numerous awards. The pair additionally accused Activision of attempting to back out of a March 2008 agreement. Activision brought the agreement to the table in order to keep West and Zampella at work on Modern Warfare 2 and under Activision until 2011, according to the claim. That agreement said, according to the filing, that Activision gave the pair "creative authority" over the development of any Modern Warfare-branded game, as well as any Call of Duty-branded game set after the Vietnam War. The agreement also said, according to the claim, that the plaintiffs have "the right to operate Infinity Ward independently," and create a new property after the completion of Modern Warfare 2. That same agreement also provided that Infinity Ward's staff would receive additional compensation in the form of royalties and stock options. Activision responded to West and Zampella's suit yesterday, calling their claims "meritless."

About the Author(s)

Kris Graft


Kris Graft is publisher at Game Developer.

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