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Activision vs West and Zampella case delayed, participants speak out

Friday, 25 May 2012 00:20 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Infinity Ward founders and former leaders Jason West and Vince Zampella, along with attorney Robert M. Schwartz, have broken a long silence to speak openly about the events leading up to Activision’s dismissal of both creatives and the resulting mess of lawsuits and counter-suits.

Polygon reports the long-awaited trial has been slightly delayed, from May 29 to June 1, with presiding judge Elihu Berle predicting the case will be complete in less than 20 days, as it’s “not that complicated”.

Those who have been following the case may disagree, but in a pair of revealing interviews, West, Zampella and Schwartz certainly paint a compelling picture of a one-sided case – although notably, Activision is refusing to comment, so the publisher’s side of the story is unknown.

Speaking to GameInformer, West and Zampella’s attorney explained the case in simple terms, saying Activision is suing the pair of creatives for damages related to how much more money the publisher would have made if they had still been in place to make Modern Warfare 3. West and Zampella’s suit accuses Activision of termination without cause, which resulted in the pair’s loss of significant financial compensation.

“Basically Activision is saying that they are bad guys [who] needed to be fired, and Activision had a contract for their services and was deprived of the value of not getting ­better ­games,” Schwartz said.

One month before their termination, just a few months from the end of their Activision contracts, West and Zampella claim to have been negotiating a new agreement with Activision in which they gave up rights granted in their last contract, like the chance to do something that wasn’t Modern Warfare 3, but asked to hire up to ten staff from Infinity Ward for their new independent studio. They were then informed that they were under investigation; document suggest the operation, Project Icebreaker, was going on for over a year.

Notoriously, Activision accused West and Zampella of conspiring to run off with EA, although this portion of the suit has since been dropped; the pair maintain nothing came of their discussions with EA boss John Riccitiello.

“In October or November their lawyer and their agent got a phone call from EA saying, ‘Hey, are they interested? Would they be interested? What’s going on?’ Activision was under serious negotiations with them, so they sent a phone call back saying, ‘Look, we’re trying to work things out with Activision, so we’re not going to be able to respond to that, thank you very much.’ And that ­was ­it,” Schwartz said.

Nevertheless, the two were dismissed on grounds of “insubordination”. In another interview with Gamespot, Schwartz said that West and Zampella were devastated by their termination.

“These guys had been keeping Activision afloat. If you look at the financials, they were the biggest contributor to Activision’s bottom line of anything they had. They thought they were doing a great job,” he said.

“They were stunned, they were shocked, and they were demoralised. They had to start all over from scratch. They had to leave all their technology behind, and they had nothing. It’s been a very difficult process for them that they should have never had to go through.”

While on the personal level, Schwartz was adamant regarding Activision CEO Bobby Kotick’s role in West and Zampella’s termination.

“He is the central guy. He made the decision to fire them more than a year before they were fired. He never intended to honor the contract,” the attorney said.

Both interviews linked above are well worth a read for anybody interested in publisher-developer relations or Call of Duty’s development history.

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10 Comments

  1. Lacobus

    I’ve heard Activison’s side of the story and it’s not as black and white as everyone is making it out to be.

    The trouble dates back to Call of Duty 3. Activison started to notice this series was exploding and wanted to keep the momentum going with yearly franchises, so asked their employees, West and Zampella to deliver COD 3. After just releasing the highly successful COD 2 West and Zampella were adamant it couldn’t be done and wanted two years to make Modern Warfare. In fact, I’ve heard the success of COD had gone to West and Zampella’s heads and even though Infinity Ward was now owned by Activison they kept interfering in things like the marketing which was done by Activison Corporate. Activision though well within their rights to ask their employees to work within their schedule acceded to their demands, moving development of COD 3 over to Treyarch (who had only just completed the console COD 2: Big Red One). Treyarch then proceeded to make COD 3 in seven months released on all platforms to great success. This pissed West and Zampella off A LOT. They followed this set up for a few years, Treyarch and Infinity Ward taking bi-yearly turns on the franchise. Now after Modern Warfare 2 was released, Activison expected Infinity Ward to start work on Modern Warfare 3. West and Zampella who by now thought they were rock stars demanded some extended time off. Bearing in mind Activison had already bent over backwards for these two and expecting your employees to turn up for work tomorrow is hardly the machinations of an evil corporation had decided enough was enough. They didn’t need these diva’s anymore so fired them.

    This only a story I heard (from an Acti employee) so could be wrongwrongwrong. Interesting if true though. Either way I cant wait to see how this case is going to turn out.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Phoenixblight

    @1

    Those emails paint a whole different picture and without Zampella and West Activision wouldn’t be where they are now. And withholding payments when they are due, huge fat no-no.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. G1GAHURTZ

    This only a story I heard (from an Acti employee) so could be wrongwrongwrong.

    Was his name Bobby Kotick!?

    So basically what you’re accusing West and Zampella of is trying to push Acti as hard as possible in order to make the game as good as they thought it could be, instead of sitting back and being ‘yes men’.

    Further to that, you use CoD3 as some sort of evidence that a the two weren’t doing their jobs properly!

    Are you sane!!?

    CoD3 is one of the worst games I’ve ever played in my life! I’ve been gaming for the best part of three decades, and the ONLY time I can ever remember seeing something as bad as an enemy NPC literally SPAWNING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME was during the disastrous excuse for a campaign that is in that game.

    Don’t even get me started on the multiplayer, either.

    Ask any gamer (you sound more like a PR guy) what they’d rather have; a good game that takes two years or more to release, or a ‘passable’ one that takes less than one year, and see what they say.

    Sounds to me from what you’re saying is that West and Zampella were fired for being actual game developers who cared about their product.

    You can tell Bobby I said that, too.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Lacobus

    @3

    Hey, I’M not accusing anyone of anything, this is a story I heard not my opinion on the whole affair. I was just trying to offer the other side a story as the media and various commenters seem to be pretty one-sided. Do you think it’s was right for W+Z to push (and push) their employers? I know if I disagreed with everything my boss wanted me to do he’d get angry pretty quickly.

    I think your personal opinion of COD 3 is irrelevant. The game was a touch more successful than COD 2, and it wasn’t on PC either which makes that statistic more amazing, the facts don’t lie, the ‘average’ gamer went out and bought it in their droves. And I will get you started on the multiplayer, I was under the impression it was considered the best part of the game (I am a gamer as it happens, I remember the bridge level being particularly awesome).

    And finally, I don’t think W+Z were fired for being ‘actual’ game developers, I think the moral of the story (if there is one) is that they shouldn’t have sold out to Activison in the first place.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. G1GAHURTZ

    I worked in the games industry for about 9 years, and it didn’t take me long to realise that there are always a number of continuous battles going on in order for people to consider themselves to have done their job properly.

    I’m an artist by trade, and the more responsibility I got throughout my career, the more time I spent arguing and fighting with coders over why it was more important for the game to look good than be ultra efficient.

    There are always battles going on. Between artists and coders, production and marketing, etc. and if there’s an external producer, as we have in this case, you’d better believe that he’s going to ride into town every other month or so with a ‘why aren’t you finished yet!?’ attitude.

    The publisher wants it yesterday, but the (professional) developers want to do it to the best of their ability, and in their own time.

    Face the facts… If West and Zampella were the kind of guys who just did what Acti said all the time, the CoD series would probably be languishing alongside Guitar Hero right now.

    And you can’t compare sales of a launch title with one that came out to a bigger install base and, let’s face it, stood on the shoulders of it’s prequel in order to get sales.

    The CoD3 MP was unbalanced, and that’s why noone plays it any more. I can show you hardcore pro CoD players who still go back to CoD2 from time to time for some sniping gameplay.

    No one plays CoD3 any more unless they’re masochistic.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @3: Are we talking about MW3? Because i thought the campaign made much more sense than the campaign in MW2.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. DSB

    With all due respect, I think Zampella and West were in a much higher league than the artist/coder level, and I don’t think they could’ve had that kind of success without realizing that they were some of the hottest shit in the industry.

    They did hire a Hollywood talent agency to front them, and that has to be seen as pretty aggressive. What was that agency going to do, besides pressure Activision and potentially look for other options?

    That being said, from the e-mails it certainly does look like Activision were at best making contingencies in case they did become too much trouble. And at worst scheming and lying in wait.

    Even if Lacobus story is true, that still does very little to acquit Activision.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Lacobus

    You HAVE to compare sales though. The only other measure of quality is Metacritic and companies don’t run on review scores. It is a fair comparison too, COD 2 and 3 were both console launch titles for the 360 and PS3 respectively. Ok more people had 360′s a year later but the install base of PC’s is a little bit bigger than that.

    I just think everyone loves to hate ‘The Man’, and in this case it’s Kotick and Activision. I don’t see any game company as evil (mmm…maybe Zynga), and this idea that W+Z are ‘fighting for the people’ is crap. No-one knows what went down really, just what W+Z have been classily spouting out in the media.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. G1GAHURTZ

    Trust me, I’m probably the biggest CoD player that you’ve ever come into contact with. I have every single version of CoD, from CoD2 up to MW3, with multiple copies of the same games on multiple platforms.

    The first ever CoD I bought and played was CoD3. I played it for about 2hrs, then didn’t touch it again until about 2 years later, after I’d played (and thoroughly enjoyed) both CoD4 and CoD2.

    If anyone wanted to enjoy a CoD game when I played CoD3, it was me.

    But I didn’t. Because it was rubbish. It was a bug ridden mess, and even Treyarch openly admit that.

    I played CoD2 after CoD3, but I could see that it was a better game.

    A finished, polished game.

    Not a 7 month, asset copy and paste, bodge job.

    Anyway, as for this case, then I’m not naive enough to think that West and Zampella are completely faultless.

    I just took issue with the way that your comment (whether it was your opinion or not) suggested that the two were scheming, jealous prima donnas, who were out to rip Activision off for no apparent reason. The fact that you used CoD3 as an example really didn’t help you case, either.

    At the end of the day, I think that West and Zampella will win this case with very little fuss. And that will be proof enough for everyone,

    #9 3 years ago
  10. Lacobus

    Haha fair enough. Like I say no-one knows what actually went on, least of all me. Some third hand story I heard off an ex-employee is hardly proof. I do feel I’m backed up slightly by bigheaded comments like ‘These guys were keeping Activision afloat’ (were they? umm.. Guitar Hero) but again thats hardly proof. And it should be noted that this story does come from the Activision operations end, not a developer. I suppose we’ll all find out soon.

    #10 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Destiny players, you asked for it and Bungie has delivered it: you can now swap items in and out of the vault using the companion app. “Destiny needs more vault space” you cry – and yes, this is true. But while we all struggle with the limitations imposed on us by Bungie, we face all […]

  • Mortal Kombat X will contain over 100 Brutalities

    During the Mortal Kombat X stream today, NetherRealm Studios revealed Brutalities are back for the game, and stated there will be over 100 to pull off. You won’t gain any extra experience for being overly cruel with your painful moves, but you will at least get to laugh at some and “cringe” at others, according […]

  • Numenera: Strand is a film based on the game up on Kickstarter

    Numenera, the 2012 Kickstarter success and foundation for Torment: Tides of Numenera, could become a film if the Kickstarter for the movie is successful. With five days left, Monte Cook Games and Swedish film company Valdes/Eriksdotter needs £22,542 to reach its goal. Titled Numenera: Strand, it tells the tale of a drifter who “roams a […]

  • Gran Turismo 6 update adds MINI Clubman Vision, more

    A Mini Cooper has invaded Gran Turismo 6 via a new update. The Mid-Field Raceway track has also been added, and its a new and improved version of the original track from previous Gran Turismos. The new B-Spec Mode feature has also been added which allows the AI driver to race on your behalf. Additional […]

  • Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and some playable titles to PAX East

    Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and Splatoon with it to PAX East next month. The E3 2014 build of the game lets eight players transform into squids in a race for “splattered-paint dominance.” Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will also be playable and featured in stage presentations at the Nintendo booth. Upcoming or newly released Nintendo […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Premium information seems to have slipped out early

    Battlefield Hardline Premium perks have apparently leaked a bit early, according to a post on Reddit. Over on the Hardline subreddit is an image which was take at a GameStop location, noting two week early access to content additional Battlepacks and more. Here’s the rundown: Four expansions Two weeks early access 12 additional Battlepacks Exclusive […]

  • Final Fantasy: Record Keeper arrives in the US this spring

    Final Fantasy: Record Keeper will be released in the US on iOS and Android this spring, DeNA and Square Enix today. The mobile titles allows players to “relive favorite moments” across all Final Fantasy installments and build a team of classic characters from across the entire franchise. If you sign up for email updates, you […]

  • Battlefield Hardline now available for pre-order, pre-download on Xbox One

    Battlefield Hardline is now available for pre-order and pre-download on Xbox One. You can pre-order it now from the Xbox Store and once you have paid for it, you can start your pre-download. Battlefield Hardline releases on March 17, and will be made available to pre-downloaders come 12.01am EDT. Check pricing and availability for your […]

  • Dying Light interactive video allows you switch between day and night

    A new video for Dying Light has been released, which allows you to hit the Z key to change between day and night. Titles Life and Death in the Quarantine Zone, the interactive story video showcases how the game changes between day and night. Daytime and nighttime are shown side-by-side but the z key allows […]

  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]