Sat, Apr 02, 2011 | 14:36 BST
West and Zampella add charges of fraud to suit against Activision
According to new court documents unearthed by Gamespot, former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella have added two counts of fraud to their original $36 million complaint against Activision over unpaid bonuses relating to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
The addition of the fraud claims are on top of what the duo already filed against the firm back in March 2010, and the amended complaint states that back in March 2008, Activision entered into “a Memorandum of Understanding” with West and Zampella. The memorandum was formed in order to secure the pair’s employment in order to close the merger with Vivendi.
This contract also address a concern held by West and Zampella over the creative authority of the Modern Warfare series as well as the “creation of a look, feel, and brand for the Modern Warfare games.” In addition, the MOU also detailed the bonus plan tied to “operating income generated by a set of eligible games, including Modern Warfare 2,” reads Gamestop’s assessment of the amended complaint.
Activision supposedly signed the contract due to the importance of closing the Vivendi deal: “To protect its interest in consummating its merger with Vivendi Games, Activision needed to do everything it could to keep West and Zampella content with their responsibilities and compensation at Infinity Ward. This gave West and Zampella considerable bargaining power in their negotiations with Activision,” the complaint states.
The addition to the original complaint states that West and Zampella were “skeptical” of the MOU because they claim Activision had been hesitant to provide control and independence to its development studios and subsequent properties in the past .
Negotiations between the firm and Infinity Ward supposedly secured its right to final say over any MW-branded title in the future or any subsequent licensing. A stipulation was added to the MOU by Activision that any creative control handed to the duo or any monetary incentives were subject to West and Zampella’s continued employment with the firm.
Despite continued apprehension on the duo’s part over the possibility of being fired by the firm to “circumvent the MOU’s clause,” the two claim Activision CEO Bobby Kotick reassured them by stating: “Don’t worry about it. It’s impossible for you guys to get fired.”
Due to this reassurance, the duo claim they signed the MOU without added clarification, committing themselves to three more years of employment at Activision. With this, they continued work under the premise that Infinity Ward would continue to operate as an independent studio along the line of Blizzard.
The amended complaint adds that West and Zampella are convinced Activision was never planning to honor the MOU to being with, especially the clauses related to creative authority and bonus payment.
“While paying lip-service to West’s and Zampella’s creative authority, in 2008 and thereafter, Activision began secret development of Modern Warfare and Call of Duty games and related products, and undertook other conduct in relation to these two videogame franchises that, under the MOU, required prior approval from West and Zampella,” reads the amended text.
“Activision did not inform West or Zampella of such plans or seek their input or approval for them. Indeed, while breaching the creative authority provisions of the MOU, Activision continued to pay lip-service to them, in an attempt to mask its secret development efforts.”
One of the lawyers in the firm representing West and Zampella told Gamespot that the men are also asking the courts to void the MOU, and if granted, this would make the two co-owners of the Modern Warfare brand with Activision. If allowed, this would not only grant West and Zampella the right to release their own copies of the series, but the rescission of the contract would also them to create new games in the Modern Warfare franchise.
Earlier this month, a California Superior Court judge concluded that Activision had shown sufficient evidence to go forward with its $400 million suit against the ex-Infinity Ward founders along with EA.