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Original Poster
#1 Old 24th Jan 2011 at 12:07 AM
Default EA vs. Activision: The Debacle
I hadn't seen a thread about this, but I thought this was relevant to the gaming community, and well, when two multi-billion dollar giants get into legal fisticuffs, it's a pretty big deal.

This has been going on for a while now, so I'll try to bring everyone up to speed. Here's some backstory for the Activison vs. Infinity Ward case. More below.

In short, Activision (producer of the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft franchises, among others) fired Vince Zampella and Jason West (presidents of Infinity Ward, the developers that made Call of Duty) on the charges of insubordination, preventing them from receiving the bonuses from the Call of Duty sales. Activision then hands the franchise over to Sledgehammer Games (developers of Dead Space) and Treyarch, who then went on to develop Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Zampella and West, along with over 3 dozen other Infinity Ward employees then sue Activision for over hundreds of millions in unpaid bonuses.

From The Escapist's newsroom:
"In the amendment, the suit talks about a "police state-like atmosphere" that drove Infinity Ward employees away. Before West and Zampella were fired by Activision, members of Infinity Ward were allegedly subjected to secret "interrogations" as security personnel manned the exits. 40% of the promised bonuses due to the sales of Modern Warfare 2 were paid out, but the suit says that the rest was withheld until Modern Warfare 3 was completed by a required deadline of November 2011."

EA CEO John Riccitiello criticized Treyarch/Sledgehammer, saying that while yes, Black Ops sold better than Modern Warfare 2, the average review score was lower. "Treyarch still isn't a studio on par with the original Infinity Ward just yet."

Activision made a counter-suit against West, Zampella and now EA on the grounds that Electronic Arts was intentionally seducing West and Zampella behind Activision's backs. They want 400 million in damages.

In a statement to the L.A. Times, EA spokesman Jeff Brown wrote, "This is a PR play filled with pettiness and deliberate misdirection. Activision wants to hide the fact that they have no credible response to the claim of two artists who were fired and now [West and Zampella] just want to get paid for their work."

Ex-Infinity Ward employees are accusing Activision for "delaying" the court case just to harm West and Zampella's financial well-being.

Additionally, West and Zampella's lawyer, Bobby Schwartz said that the email evidence (pictured in the g4tv countersuit link above) is "a desperate attempt ... to find some basis to justify its misconduct and refusal to pay what it owes." He added that all the email actually proved was the incredible ill will that Activision bore the two men. He said that not only was the publisher refusing to honor the contract it had with the former Infinity Ward heads, but it was trying to destroy their ability to find work anywhere else in the industry, a point that he said he would make very clear to the jury.

Now of course we won't get the clear results until the court case is decided, but there are some points to consider:
  • If Activision is correct, breach of contract and conspiracy to undermine are very serious offenses.
  • If EA is correct, then Activision is fabricating evidence to support a claim when in reality they are just trying to avoid paying out the bonuses from one of their most successful franchises.
  • Infinity Ward employees are claiming that Activision is treating their developers as commodities, not people.
  • Activision has had several lawsuits against their developers before.
  • If the conspiracy claim is not true, firing the heads of the studio that is producing one of Activision's best-selling franchises is a risky (and possibly fatal) move.

What are your opinions on the legal battle?

"There's nothing to writing.
All you do is sit at a typewriter and open a vein."
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25th Jan 2011 at 12:05 AM
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Top Secret Researcher
#2 Old 25th Jan 2011 at 1:28 AM
Yeah, I wish Activision wasn't that greedy or corrupt. I'm an avid fan of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty games (Treyarch sucks, period!!) so I know about this debacle. Personally I hope IW beats Activision in this mess. Activision deserves to go down!


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