Activision Alleges EA and Infinity Ward Co-founders Conspired to Sabotage Call of Duty

By Alice O'Connor, Dec 22, 2010 9:10am PST The legal battle between Activision and Jason West and Vince Zampella has taken an unusual twist. In new court documents filed this week, the video games giant accuses the pair of conspiring with rival company Electronic Arts to sabotage Infinity Ward as well as fellow Call of Duty series developer Treyarch and the brand.

First, a quick summary of events so far: West and Zampella, who co-founded of Call of Duty creator Infinity Ward before it was bought by Activision, were fired in March under mysterious circumstances; West and Zampella sued for unpaid royalties and brand rights; Activision scoffed. With us so far? Excellent.

IW employees then began leaving the studio in drips and drabs--around 35 eventually left in all; Activision counter-sued, claiming West and Zampella tried to "steal" IW; the pair formed Respawn Entertainment and signed a publishing agreement with EA; some IW veterans joined Respawn; Infinity Ward was restructed. Get it? Got it? Good.

On Tuesday, Activision filed an amendment to its complaint, reported by Joystiq, detailing a whole spread of alleged improprieties. It's claimed that West and Zampella had been in talks with EA for eight months before their firing, plotting together to create a new studio with Activision and Infinity Ward talent. To foster discontent, Activision says, the pair resisted Activision's attempts to pay employees bonuses and incentives. On top of that, they were "already appropriating for themselves approximately 1/3 of the total Infinity Ward bonus pool each quarter."

It's further claimed that West and Zampella intentionally released a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 trailer on the same day as Treyarch released a trailer of their own for a Call of Duty: World at War map pack, to undermine the other developer and the series. Activision has produced supposed text message records of the plan.

"Treyarch released their mp dlc video," an anonymous employee sent to West, who responded "Super nice? We release our video? Crush and destroy with our video." The mysterious person affirmed "We already did. And ... we already did." "Nice," said West.

As West and Zamepella still had years left on their contracts, they rocked the boat by threatening to stop developing Modern Warfare 2, and then hold up Modern Warfare 3, as leverage in negotiations with Activision to found another own studio and work on new games under terms less favourable to the publisher.

EA worked with West and Zampella and their talent agency to plan all this, Activision alleges, with the goal of weakening the Call of Duty franchise and poaching Infinity Ward talent. This included bringing the pair by private jet to a "secret meeting" at EA CEO John Riccitiello's house. However, much of the supporting evidence for these claims is, the defendants insist, confidential and cannot be revealed. Large portions of the legal filing are redacted.

Supposedly, EA had also "sought to extract confidential information from West and Zampella, including information about the Modern Warfare marketing plans and how Electronic Arts could make a 'COD killer.'"

Activision is seeking "at least 400 million dollars" from EA to pay for profits lost due to its inference and for the cost of rebuilding Infinity Ward, as well as "punitive and exemplary damages to punish Electronic Arts and to deter similar conduct in the future."

It also wants back money West and Zempalla had received "during the period of their disloyalty" and to stop them from using confidential information owned by Activision in making their own rival products.

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  • Kotick must be fired.

    Thread Truncated. Click to see all 7 replies.

    • Why? : freshykThis person is cool!
        • Kotick did crap all. I'm sorry. You're wrong there. The company was a one-hit wonder (Call of Duty) that propped itself up by milking the living bejeezus outta Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk games.

          Then Vivendi bought them, merged them with Blizzard, and suddenly Kotick's profits skyrocketed, the publisher is insanely successful, and Kotick gets all the credit?

          Blizzard is what makes Blizzard-Activision really work. When Guitar Hero was huge, Blizzard was there making a crap load of money. When it fell by the wayside, Blizzard was still there making a crap load of money. When MW2 came along and redefined the sales of gaming, Blizzard was still there making a crap load of money. When Kotick likely pulled a bait 'n switch on IW causing the studio to implode, Blizzard was making a crap load of money. When Tony Hawk tanked for two years in a row, Kotick had Blizzard over in its separate corner making a crap load of money. When Activision shut down Red Octane, they had Blizzard. When Activision let Prototype drift in the wind... there was Blizzard. When Activision turned Raven Software into the DLC makers, they had Blizzard. When they gave up on Bizarre, they had Blizzard.

          No matter what action they do, what choices they make, whether it's to force a situation where the dream developer of their mega blockbuster superhit Call of Duty implodes and disappears or gutting developers who don't match up to the sales of said dream developer (whose reward was so awesome for their success, right?), they always have Blizzard propping them up.

          Hell, Blizzard didn't even REPORT to Kotick for the longest time. It was only in the last year that corporate structure was changed to have them under him and that was done very quietly. Precisely because they didn't want people to get the wrong idea.

          The wrong idea being your choice between: 1) Kotick is now in charge of Blizzard and probably was all along, thus explaining their about-face changes with regards to options they swore they'd never offer in WoW (server change, faction change, race change, buying mounts, buying pets) or turning SC2 into a three game sales bonanza. Or 2) That Kotick had nothing to do with the success of his own company because Blizzard--a branch he didn't reportedly have any influence over--is the source of a majority of their profits.

          Originally, they had their three pillars + Blizzard. Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, and Tony Hawk. With Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk severely diminished, they have Call of Duty... and they have Blizzard.

          So again, I say. What exactly does Kotick deserve credit for? Agreeing to merge with the makers of World of Warcraft? I think any idiot off the street would have known the wisdom of that.