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Feature: 'Call Of Duty: Finest Hour - The Contract'

For today's main Gamasutra feature, we present an annotated contract between Activision and Spark Unli...
For today's main Gamasutra feature, we present an annotated contract between Activision and Spark Unlimited for 2004's console title Call Of Duty: Finest Hour. This is the first time a major game development contract has been disclosed publicly, and it is presented here in its entirety. For commentary on the feature, which reprints the entire development contract for Spark's November 2004-released console game Call Of Duty: Finest Hour, which debuted on PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Gamecube, we talked to noted 'Game Attorney' Tom Buscaglia, who said of the contract: "Contracts such as these are rarely made public because they inevitably contain confidentiality provisions that prohibit the publication of or even talking about their terms. But once the contract was filed as an exhibit in the lawsuit, and then unsealed by the court, the contract became public information. This was a just too good an opportunity to miss. So, when the editors of Gamasutra asked me to review and comment on the agreement, I jumped at it." We also sought the help of Chris Bennett & Dave Spratley of Davis & Company LLP, and who also run the Video Game Law Blog, who summarized the conflict that would lead to the eventual lawsuit between Spark and Activision: "Spark claimed that: 1. Activision threatened to stop funding the games unless Spark agreed to accept fewer royalties and other less-favorable terms. 2. Activision charged Spark millions in assistance costs that Spark did not approve. 3. Activision did not negotiate in good faith regarding sequels. 4. Activision did not provide meaningful bridge funding. 5. Activision hired away some of Spark’s employees. In October 2005, Activision counter-sued for fraud, breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, trade-mark infringement, false designation of origin, and false advertising. Activision claimed that: 1. Spark misrepresented that it had the necessary talent, knowledge, skill and experience to develop the games. 2. Activision paid Spark’s legal fees to defend against Electronic Arts’ accusation that Spark stole trade secrets and confidential information from EA. 3. Spark repeatedly failed to meet its milestones, even when Activision provided substantial support. 4. Spark’s proposal for a sequel was half-hearted and deficient. 5. Spark failed to return development kits and computers containing source code to Activision. 6. Spark breached its confidentiality obligations when it filed the lawsuit." You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject with a full reprint of the contract, which even includes milestone payment specifics, and comments from all of the above on what to watch out for and avoid in the future (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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