Report: Infinity Ward Lawsuit claims “Police State” atmosphere at Activision

By Stephany Nunneley
10 July 2010 15:48 GMT


Legal proceedings between Activision and Infinity Ward moved forward yesterday, with lawyers for the Infinity Ward Employee Group filing an amendment to the lawsuit.

New Allegations

According to court documents dug up by Kotaku, the amendment adds new claims and also reduces the amount being sought by the Infinity Ward Employee Group, which is made up of former and current employees of the developer.

The new claims outlined in the amendment paint Activision as a “Police State”, with the firm placing guards at doors and exits, breaking promises, and conducting “secret interrogations” of employees. It also claims higher-ups not only threatened, but tried to coax employees into creating the next Modern Warfare game by holding the over $54 million dollars in bonuses for ransom.

Former employees stated in the addendum what happened to the appropriated bonuses, and lowered the original suit price of half a billion dollars down to $216 million for punitive damages and unpaid bonuses.

Breach of contract

The Infinity Ward Employee Group, made up of approximately 40 former and current employees of the developer, banded together in April 2010 to file a lawsuit against Activision for half a billion dollars, alleging breach of contract and unpaid royalties.

According to the suit filed with Activision, had the publisher not fired Jason West and Vince Zampella, withheld the promised bonuses, and not created a hostile work environment with a “Police State” atmosphere, the employees would not be suing and those who left the firm would have instead stayed on.

In March, Activision paid 40 percent of the bonuses owed to the Modern Warfare 2 team, but according to the Infinity Ward Group, it withheld the rest until Modern Warfare 3 was completed and shipped by November 2011.

The employees also state that after a meeting with Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, they were assured by him all bonus money owed would be paid at the end of the month. The suit claims this did not happen, and when some brought this to the attention of Thomas Tippl in April, they were told by the CFO to “Get over it”.

“We had no choice”  but to fire West and Zampella

Back in May, during a financial call to investors, CEO Bobby Kotick told analysts and share holders Activision “had no choice” but to terminate Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vincent Zampella’s employment.

“We felt we had no choice but to terminate the Infinity Ward executives. There was no gray area, as talented as they might have been”, said Kotick. “There was nothing that would have allowed us to retain them, we did this to protect the company’s assets and the interest of our shareholders..

“The decision to terminate the two executives was not done lightly, and was not done to deprive them of their bonuses. Nor was it done without a great deal of deliberation about the consequences. I personally considered [West and Zampella] friends. Their conduct was a compromise of our friendship, which was equally disappointing”.

In March, Jason West and Vince Zampella filed a lawsuit against Activision, separate from the one filed by the Infinity Ward Employee Group, seeking $36 million in unpaid royalties and  full control of the Modern Warfare brand.

Activision in turn filed a countersuit against West and Zampella.

After being terminated from Activision, West and Zampella went on to form Respawn Entertainment which signed a deal with Activision rival Electronic Arts, subsequently gaining former Infinity Ward employees in the process.

The contract with the firm provides Respawn with full control over intellectual properties it creates under EA Partners, and provides publishing and distribution rights to its games for the foreseeable future.

A hearing is set

While both lawsuits against Activision are separate from one another, on August 5, a judge will determine whether both will be consolidated into one trial.

An initial trial date was set for May 23, 2011 – two weeks before E3 2011 – but it may be changed once the judge has a chance to mull over the pending suits.

We’ve mailed Activision for comment, and will update you should new developments occur.

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