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Activision Counter-Sues Call of Duty Creators

by Brian Leahy, Apr 09, 2010 7:30pm PDT

The Modern Warfare 2 drama-train is on the move again. After ousted Infinity Ward studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella sued Activision over a month ago, it has been relatively quiet until two lead developers resigned from the studio earlier this week.

Now, it's Activision's turn, filing a counter-suit against West and Zampella accusing them of creating "an unlawful pattern and practice of conduct that was designed to steal the [Infinity Ward] studio, which is one of Activision's most valuable assets -- at the expense of Activision and its shareholders and for their own personal financial gain," according the LA Times.

The suit reveals that Activision is hoping to release Modern Warfare 3 in late 2011, but the company alleges that West and Zampella actively delayed pre-production on the sequel.

The suit also accuses West and Zampella of going "on a secret trip by private jet to Northern California, arranged by their Hollywood agent, to meet with the most senior executives of Activision's closest competitor." This is line with rumors that the duo were meeting with competitors to shop a new intellectual property to publishers outside of Activision with Electronic Arts chiefly among them.

EA spokesman Jeff Brown said, "We don't have the time to comment on the many lawsuits Activision files against its employees and creative partners," perhaps referring to the fact that Activision had previously dropped Tim Schafer's Brutal Legend, only to sue Shafer's Double Fine after the title was picked up by EA.

As for this lawsuit, West and Zampella's lawyer Robert Schwartz has called the counter-suit's allegations "false and outrageous." The full statement answers each point raised by Activision, as predicted.

Activision also claims that West and Zampella attempted to block Activision's payout of royalties to IW employees "in order to make these employees easier to poach when West and Zampella executed their plans to leave the company and set up their own company."

The original lawsuit by West and Zampella seeks owed royalties and control of the Modern Warfare 2 IP. Activision's counter-suit calls for the recovery of payments handed to the pair "during the period of their disloyalty" as well as getting out of any future payments.

While these issues usually play out behind closed doors, something tells me that each side of the argument will continue to make very public statements about the other.