Activision emails unsealed as part of the Infinity Ward trial reveal founders Jason West and Vince Zampella were due $13 million in bonuses when their employment was abruptly terminated after the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
According to court documents [PDF] published by the LA Times, in the wake of Modern Warfare 2’s release, West and Zampella had base salaries of $436,000, and were expected to receive bonuses of $13 million each. Their forced departure from the company denied them these payments and kicked off a lawsuit.
These extraordinarily high payments were probably the result of Modern Warfare 2’s success, although in the year before, West and Zampella were expected to receive a base salary of $420,000 plus projected bonuses of over $3 million.
Several other high-ranking Infinity Ward staffers were lined up for serious pay cheques in 2009; software engineer Robert Field and Francesco Gigliotti boasted salaries of over $115,000 and projected bonuses of $603,067. Below that line, projected salaries were between $74,900 and $127,608, with projected bonuses between $278,486 and $556,972. These numbers jumped in 2010, too.
Industry reaction to the news has been mixed, with developers voicing both incredulity and envy on social media. In the released documents, Activision doesn’t seem very happy about the contracts, noting that the publisher is “paying way too many people way too much” and seeking a way to limit bonuses on high-selling games.
Gamasutra reports 18 of the 21 top-paid developers listed in the documents have since jumped ship for Respawn, West and Zampella’s new, EA-sheltered team.
Activision reached an out of court settlement – including a $42 million pay out – with former Infinity Ward staffers over unpaid bonuses, but a trial concerning West and Zampella’s dismissal is ongoing.
Some of the court documents opened over the last week have since been re-sealed, but are still available on online mirrors.