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

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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.

From The Chatty

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    December 22, 2010 9:18 AM

    Why would they need to sabotage Treyarch? Isn't Treyarch doing a good enough job of that themselves by consistently releasing the worst games in the series?

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      December 22, 2010 9:20 AM

      lol, true.

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      December 22, 2010 10:00 AM

      Did you even play their most recent game Call of Duty: Black Ops?

      Reviews + sales would beg to differ.

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        December 22, 2010 10:06 AM

        Reviews also said Modern Warfare 2 is amazing.

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        December 22, 2010 11:38 AM

        Sales are no indicator of quality, they are an indicator of peoples willingness to try a product.

        /Spiderman 3

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        December 23, 2010 3:53 AM

        Metal Gear Solid 2 got great reviews. It was crap. MW2 got great reviews. It was a backward step from MW.

        Sales != Greatness, except if your last name is Kotick.

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        December 29, 2010 10:50 AM

        i tried that sh.it game and this sh.it lagged there is system requiretments was normal for me but i bought and installed and tried it and i deleted fastly as i can what a fcking low settings is that low should be ultimate :S lol get a brain ea...

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      December 22, 2010 10:32 AM

      Competition is the best motivator. If anything, IW motivated Treyarch to be better. Evidence for this can be seen in Black Ops, which is generally considered the best of Treyarch's games.

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      December 22, 2010 11:31 AM

      Black Ops is by far the best game so far in the series.

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        December 22, 2010 11:52 AM

        You must of not played COD 1 or 2, and I don't mean Modern Warfare 1 and 2 I mean COD 1 and 2. Go play those then come back and your opinion will probably change.

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          December 22, 2010 1:22 PM

          I'm sick of people saying this. Have you played them recently? How about you go play them right now, I bet your opinion will change, although they were awesome at the time, they are pretty average by todays standards, and likely most of your love for it is nostalgic.

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            December 22, 2010 2:15 PM

            "Average by Today's Standards" is still better than the load of shit sold in boxes in the last 2 COD games.

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            December 22, 2010 2:55 PM

            Every COD is the same game over and over. The only good one was the first for single player. Everything since is a multi player update franchise in he vein of Madden.

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            December 23, 2010 7:23 AM

            Well, continue to be sick because it's true.

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          December 22, 2010 7:00 PM

          I was not a fan of the first two CODs...maybe its that they came out when I really wanted WW2 games to die...maybe its the fact that I found their single player to be uninspired and their multiplayer to be unremarkable...but I just didn't like them.

          CoD4 on the other hand was like Counter Strike if Counter Strike wasn't (IMHO) a reaking pile of shit. It fixed most of what I hated about Counter Strike. There aren't any servers running HC DOM for it anymore, so I've moved on to BLOPS as thats my only option for that.

          I mean I think the Quakes are better than any of the CoD games...but they don't make games like that anymore and they're really in a different sub-genre.

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            January 2, 2011 1:22 AM

            You completely invalidate your opinion when you call CounterStrike a reeking pile of shit. Yeah, of course QW and Q3 are the best FPS ever, but CS easily slides in at #3.

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        December 23, 2010 6:09 AM

        I'm enjoying the MP, but the single player has to be the 2nd worst in the series, 2nd only to COD3's lack of polish.

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      December 22, 2010 11:58 AM

      What makes it the worst? I play a couple games almost every night on xbox and I think it's pretty damn fun.

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        December 22, 2010 2:17 PM

        For starters, they obviously put little work into the PC version.

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          December 22, 2010 6:52 PM

          Worked fine for me...on my 4 different PCs with different specs.

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            January 2, 2011 7:09 PM

            Good for you champ, the average person with a dual core had problems, take a look at ANY of the forums.

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      December 22, 2010 6:14 PM

      When are people going to realize that these companies don't give a shit about the quality of the game. If a cool million in advertising and paying off reviewers sells a billion copies, that's all that matters. Money well spent. They will support it just long enough till the next version comes out, then drop that bitch like a bad habit, still buggy and broken with little content to speak of.