NEWS - Monday, April 12, 2010

Activision vs Infinity Ward Founders

Activision Blizzard has filed a counter-suit against the former executives of Modern Warfare developer Infinity Ward this morning, claiming that they conspired with a rival publisher to break away from Activision and form a new studio.

Though the rival publisher was not named in the suit, it was referred to as "Activision’s closest competitor," all but confirming previous rumors that ousted execs Jason West and Vincent Zampella had been secretly meeting with Electronic Arts.

According to the suit, Zampella and West went "on a secret trip by private jet to Northern California, arranged by their Hollywood agent," to meet with the unnamed publisher.

The suit, which was filed this morning and aptly described by the Los Angeles Times as reading "more like a dramatic Hollywood script," claims that West and Zampella intentionally prevented Activision from giving bonus money to other Infinity Ward developers "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."

"[West and Zampella] morphed from valued, responsible executives into insubordinate and self-serving schemers who attempted to hijack Activision’s assets for their own personal gain," the suit also said.

West and Zampella’s attorney Robert Schwartz issued a statement this morning, which was published by the L.A. Times:

The allegations Activision made today are false and outrageous. Just one example is Activision’s allegation that Jason and Vince conspired to spin off Infinity Ward. Activision itself proposed spinning off Infinity Ward when, last year, it sought to renegotiate Jason and Vince’s contract and induce them to forego developing a new game in favor of doing another Modern Warfare sequel. Jason and Vince had hired the Creative Artists Agency to advise them in their negotiations with Activision, and not to breach their contract. The conversations with IW employees, talent agents, and others during these negotiations with Activision were not conducted in disrespect of Activision but to see if Activision’s proposal could work.

Activision’s inaccurate and misguided allegations lose sight of the reality here: None of the false claims of insubordination or breach of duties had any negative affect on Activision -- none. Modern Warfare 2 has been the world’s most successful video game. And none of this changes the fact that Jason and Vince would still be at Infinity Ward developing new games except that Activision kicked them out. This is just an Activision tactic to avoid paying Jason and Vince and everyone else at Infinity Ward the millions of dollars they all earned and that Activision owes them. Since being fired by Activision, Jason and Vince have taken steps to regain control over their creative future and plan to have an announcement very soon.

Zampella and West’s original suit claims that Activision owes them "substantial royalty payments," which Activision is alleging were withheld because of their insubordinate behavior.

Asked to comment on the story, EA’s Jeff Brown told Gamasutra "We don’t have the time to comment on the many lawsuits Activision files against its employees and creative partners."



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