Call Of Duty Giant Suing Rival Over Modern Warfare Meltdown, Paints Uglier Picture

The nasty lawsuits between Call of Duty publisher Activision and the ousted lead creators of that hit series franchise just got uglier with accusations that the makers of Modern Warfare gleefully sabotage the sister studio behind this year's Call of Duty: Black Ops - and that the president of rival EA was instrumental in trying to "hijack" the Call of Duty developers.

In a new legal filing, Activision now charges that its rival, Medal of Honor and Battlefield publisher EA tried to sabotage Call of Duty and "hijack" parts of is company.

The company wants to add EA to its lawsuit against Jason West and Vince Zampella, the founders of original CoD studio Infinity Ward. West and Zampella were fired in March for alleged acts of insubordination. Activision wants at least $US400 million from EA and has described a series of clandestine efforts by EA to woo West and Zampella away.

Activision also has spelled out what it says were acts by West and Zampella to hurt Treyarch, the Activision-owned studio that just released the mammoth Call of Duty: Black Ops.

The tales of alleged bad behaviour are all a part of an amendment Activision shared with Kotaku today that they will try next month to add to their original counter-suit against West and Zampella.

Kotaku is reaching out to EA for comment.

"Cooking Up Chaos" - What They Say EA And Its Allies Did

West and Zampella, as founders of Infinity Ward, were deep into making Modern Warfare 2 in the summer of 2009 and and had two years left on their contract with the company when, Activision claims, EA came calling.

Activision's legal filing today sets this up:

Unable to compete with Activision and Infinity Ward, and, upon information and belief, enraged by the recent defection of two Electronic Arts executives to Activision (unlike West and Zampella, the executives who left Electronic Arts were not under employment contracts), Electronic Arts was determined to retaliate. Electronic Arts set out to destabilize, disrupt and to attempt to destroy Infinity Ward. Although the precise dates the scheme was conceived and initiated remain somewhat unknown to Activision it was clearly underway no later than July 30, 2009.

At that point, the Call of Duty publisher claims that EA's number two executive, John Schappert, started communicating in secret with West and Zampella, bringing Hollywood agents into the mix and trying to woo the Infinity Ward chiefs away.

The Activision filing includes copies of e-mails allegedly sent by CAA agent Seamus Blackley saying ""I'll wager a kidney that you'll be astonished" about the opportunity he wanted to set up for the Infinity Ward guys. Another e-mail featured Blackley inviting the IW guys to visit with EA boss John Riccitiello: "JR cooks a mean BBQ. I think we could accomplish some interesting."

In time, and with EA's knowledge that West and Zampella were under contract to Activision for another two years, Activision claims EA and the two Infinity Ward founders hatched a plan to start a spin-off company that would make games to compete with Call of Duty. According to Activision, EA, CAA and the Infinity Ward founders were assisted in their plot by Harold Brown an attorney who was formerly a member of Activision's board of directors. He is not being sued by Activision.

Activision is informed and believes that the negotiations between Electronic Arts and West and Zampella were structured with the design and the expectation that West and Zampella would "spin out" from Activision and would take significant numbers of key Infinity Ward employees with them to set up their own independent company so that Electronic Arts could make another run at competing with Activision. Electronic Arts would finance the illicitly-created start-up in exchange for an ownership interest or exclusive distribution rights to the content created by their new company, which would produce video games for Electronic Arts instead of Activision.

Since earlier this year, Activision has claimed that it knew West and Zampella had talked to EA, but until now it hadn't squarely accused those parties of scheming to hurt the Call of Duty series.

What They Say Infinity Ward's Founders Did To The Black Ops Team

The new legal filing we saw today also goes into richer detail before in alleging how the founders of Infinity Ward supposedly tried to interfere with Treyarch, the Activision studio that had traded making Call of Duty games with them in recent years, taking the odd years, and with whom IW was already known to have a frosty relationship.

This is an example of what Activision claims was going on:

Although West and Zampella preferred to portray themselves – both to the public and within Activision – as game developers often forced to battle with corporate "suits," the reality was and is much different. They were small-minded executives almost obsessed by jealousy of other developers and the thought that another Activision game or studio might share their spotlight. Motivated by envy and personal greed, West and Zampella went so far as to deliberately undermine the efforts of other developers within the Activision family and then lied about their conduct. On the same day that Treyarch released a video trailer promoting a follow-on product – a "map" pack or "downloadable content" – designed for players of Treyarch's game Call of Duty: World at War, West and Zampella released a marketing video for Modern Warfare 2 with the purpose of hurting Treyarch's and Activision's marketing efforts. Far from being remorseful, West attempted to justify his actions on the ground that Treyarch had insufficiently coordinated with Infinity Ward by stating: "We released on the same day as you because we had no clue you were releasing anything. We are not happy about it." The real truth, however, was revealed by a series of text messages between West and an Infinity Ward employee contemporaneous with the video trailers' release. The employee texted West that "treyarch released their mp dlc video." West responded: "Super nice? We release our video? Crush and destroy with our video." The employee answered: "We already did. And . . . we already did." West's following comment: "Nice." Thus, West's own words reveal his intentional strategy to "crush and destroy" his fellow developers at Treyarch.

What They Say The Infinity Ward Employees Did To Their Employees

Activision has an interest in painting West and Zampella in the worst light possible, of course. They are counter-suing these two fired employees who fired them. In the past Activision has intimated that the Infinity Ward founders withheld money their subordinates at IW deserved. In this new filing, Activision is more explicit and provides a lurid example of alleged unfairness.

The following are examples in which West and Zampella's self-interest in executing their secret plan to leave Activision corrupted their judgment so fully that they actually attempted to damage the very Infinity Ward employees they purported to lead. In July 2009, West and Zampella were asked by Activision management to provide the names of the Infinity Ward employees that should receive millions of dollars of Activision stock grants in connection with the development of a Wii version of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. West and Zampella adamantly refused. Again, in October 2009, when Activision planned to include Infinity Ward in its annual equity grants, West and Zampella refused to provide Activision with a list of the names it needed of the Infinity Ward employees that deserved awards of valuable stock and options. In responding to the President and CEO of Activision Publishing concerning the equity grant, West wrote, "You can give all the options to Vince and I . . . .," thereby depriving their own Infinity Ward employees of additional compensation.

It's not clear if the current and former employees of Infinity Ward are familiar with this version of events, but several dozen Infinity Ward employees did leave the company after West and Zampella's dismissal, many of them joining the two men's new start-up Respawn Entertainment, which is making a game for EA.


Comments

    Does that mean it is now going to be popular to love EA now that it is being sued by the big bad Kotick?

    Boo, Activision. Stinking, lousy grinches. Electronic Arts might regionally price in Australia but at least they're taking part in Xmas sales.

    So... Activision have ret-con'd the whole episode?

    Interestingly, firing West and Zampalla brought about the exact thing they allege EA was planning.

    Activision kind of sounds like douches in this with the whole EA can't compete with us thing. Don't get me wrong if what they say is true then they are in the right here but I just think they could have worded things better.

    I'm not feeling much sympathy for either side at the moment, to be perfectly honest.

    I'm not a big fan of Kotick, but the Bungie deal and an interview with Crecente a little while back made me see a different side to him/Activision. Initially I supported West and Zampella, but now things are starting to seem a bit more petty and premeditated.

    I actually think it would be pretty fair if everything was thrown out.

      Exactly. I don't know why people need to take a side in this, everyone's an asshole in the corporate world.

      Frankly, I haven't heard a single that about Bobby Kotick that implies he was unfair or unjust in this matter, so people should just get off his dick.

    Lol, it took Activision how long to cook up this bullshit? If this was true they would have put it in their counter suit right from the beginning.

      Who says they had access to the emails and SMS's from the very beginning?

      The way people take sides in these sorts of spats is bizarre.

      How can you be sure it's bullshit though? To blindly take a side like you're doing is silly. You're just saying basically 'I'll side with Zampinella because he's fighting the man'. Fact is, both sides have played underhanded tactics in this. Both sides deserve to be bitchslapped.

    Geez, this is going to get messy. There's pretty strong accusations flying from both sides. I wonder if this will affect EA's faith in putting money into Respawn.

    Unfortunately for activision, because of their douchebaggery over recent years, many gamers aren't likely to believe their side of the story. Though I guess it doesn't matter seeing as it's for the courts to decide.

    Nice article.

    Its like Activision have realised that no matter what their public image, no matter how much they suck money and life out of any developer, it doesn't matter because people still buy THEIR FUCKING GAMES!

    Jesus christ. People harp on about how bad activision are but still go out and spend 100 dollars on their product. *sigh*

    Much of this sounds like it is very 1 sided, or even a heavily edited version of events. I would like to see the response to this, but I wonder if such a thing will be made public.

    What, exactly, have Activision lost as a result of West and Zampella leaving and taking all those IW guys with them? Didn't Kotick just recently say that IW had been rebuilt and was stronger than ever? So presumably those departures didn't hurt them.

      Let's not forget - West and Zampella are suing Activision, these are just counter-claims.

    I would absolutely love to see a proper boycott of Activision... I mean not like the L4D2 boycott which wasn't even a piss in the ocean, but I mean millions of people refusing to buy their games until they shape up, stop acting like retards and actually produce some quality games. This is so freaking irritating.

      I thought it was already happening.

      People are boycotting Guitar Hero, boycotting DJ Hero, boycotting Tony Hawk... :P

    Considering the contempt IW have treated the pc community of late, i'm not sorry to see West and Zampella go, nor am i that surprised at these claims.

    Regardless of which you prefer, MW2 or Black Ops, you have to agree Treyarch did a much better job at trying to give (the pc community atleast) what they wanted.

    That's stretching a bit too far, I thought the issue was between infinity ward founders and Activision, how did they drag EA in?

    Conspiracy.

    Who'd have thought Activision could get any greedier?
    Actually.. I did..

      We're talking about Activision here right?

      The same Activision that at one stage was trying to purchase advertising space on people's tombstones?

    Hmm...

    These accusations are huge if they can be found to be true. And this case will go on for a very long time to prove such truth, due to the sheer complexity of the sources Activision refer to in those excerts.

    I think this filling is an attempt to bog down the entire case. Force the ruling back 12-24 months.

    Activision are going to over-complicate this to a point its impossible for the general public to follow, thus removing the general public's interest.

    Good thing we have Kotaku (hope they don't lose interest like we will!)

    Wow. According to the claims by activision, it sounds like west and zampellla were the real bosses of activision. Activision were not being douchbags under their own steam, they were just doing as they were told by west and zampella.

    and they brought EA into this... this is about to explode.
    i have refused to pay full price for any activision game, got black ops for 43 AUD on release

    cant wait for respawn to show us their work :)

    Not sure about much of it - but Activision has a right to be aggreived if IW was trying to subvert Treyarch's product - the cold reality for IW is that they didn't own the Call of Duty trademark - Activision does.

    Can anyone substantiate this claim of the videos for World at War and MW2 dropping on the same day?

    Interesting selective quote at the end. A quick google gives a longer version of the quote:

    "You can give all the options to Vince and I, or you can wait like we have asked numerous times."

    That sounds a bit less sinister.

    This sounds like shit-slinging to me, throwing crap and seeing what sticks.

    I don't know if West and Zampella are doing the same thing, but there's a lot of spin being thrown around here so I'm going to settle back and wait until the stink settles before deciding what to do.

    I tend to follow developers and studios rather than producers anyway.

    The angry greedy monster wants more does it?

    Its that fat pathetic child thats backed by his weak willed parents, but his parents let something slip through his grasp. Oh how fatty is raging.

    Firstly, will they have to prove in court that the sabotage was actually gleeful in nature? What if it was done with grim humour or a sense of mild levity but stopping short of actual glee?

    Secondly, when reading the quoted section of "What They Say Infinity Ward’s Founders Did To The Black Ops Team", am I the only one thinking this sounds remarkably Shakespearean? They might as well have just said "They pulled an Iago"

    Thirdly, since when have Treyarch needed to be SABOTAGED in order to make a sub-par game? I thought they only needed to be funded...

    Bunch of corporates having a tantrum.

    This reminds me of the drama that used to unfold back in my high school years.

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