38 Infinity Ward employees file $125 million lawsuit against Activision

The ongoing troubles between Activision and its internal development studio Infinity Ward has reached new heights, after several dozen former and current Infinity Ward employees made the decision to file suit against Activision, claiming that they are owed between $75 million and $125 million in unpaid royalties and bonuses.

The suit is being collectively filed by the "Infinity Ward Employee Group," comprising 38 developers from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 studio. The development comes a month after former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella were fired by Activision and filed their own $36 million suit against the Santa Monica-based publisher.

West and Zampella have since formed Respawn Entertainment, signing the development studio’s first title to Activision’s chief rival, Electronic Arts. As reported by Kotaku, the number of staff that has left Infinity Ward now stands at 26, with at least two more joining Respawn Entertainment.

According to documents obtained by G4 blog The Feed, IWEG it attempting "to recover between $75 million and $125 million, if not more," for the following:

  • Unpaid bonuses from 2009 and 2010 sales generated by Modern Warfare 2 -- fourth quarter 2009 and first quarter 2010, specifically.
  • Bonuses "due and owing to them" past first quarter 2010.
  • "Bonus/royalty/profit participation" related to "technology/engine" royalties, "other special performance bonuses," "other studio bonuses" or "any other bonus/royalty/profit participation."'
  • Lost value on "restricted stock units" that Activision "promised" would vest (read: own it in your own name and purchase it from Activision) when Modern Warfare 2 sales eclipsed Modern Warfare 1, which "has long ago occurred."
  • Money owed as it relates to Modern Warfare 2 "sister games, including but not limited to" the oft-mentioned Modern Warfare 3, "if Modern Warfare 3 is ultimately delivered and marketed."
  • Interest rates related to the above sums of money.

"Activision has withheld most of the money to force many of my people to stay, some against their will, so that they would finish the delivery of Modern Warfare 3," attorney Bruce Isaacs told G4. "That is not what they wanted to do.

In an official response, Activision said it "retains the discretion to determine the amount and the schedule of bonus payments for MW2" and believes the suit to be "without merit."


Is the lawsuit justified?

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These guys deserve all the cash from the MW2 Game as far as sales and whatever other expenses, if there is something in the contract that is promised to an employee your pretty much the idiot for promising them royalties and bonuses if you didn't want them to have those in the first place.

Activision just doesn't seem to want to pay anyone especially when the future of their killer app is in the balance of things, you would think that to please their employees they would give them what they earned i am sure Activision has tons of money to throw their way.

You know, these allegations of withhelding payments to force them to stay is serious allegation indeed, and could really get messy with Activision.

Please, enough with the "MW2 sucks" "MW2 rocks" comments. They have nothing to do with the article.

Things aren't looking that great for Activision here. If I were one of the guys in charge, I'd be getting uneasy at the number of people walking out. Then, when they all turn around and file a suit...I would have to seriously wonder if I was in the wrong.
I can't comment on whether Activision are in the wrong or not, since at the moment the facts seem to be more hearsay than anything, but I'd certainly be worried if I were them.

And they say piracy is killing gaming. Look at all the money they're throwing around and wanting. Sheesh. Much alone that they do it themselves and still get paid royally.

The money is already there, it's just gone to the wrong people. This is completely irrelevant to what's going on.

Yes. Activision is clearly playing the "fire them before the stock vests/payments are due" game. Next they will play the "cost the ex-employees as much money as possible until we settle at the last minute for less than we owe them in the first place game".

To be honest, they're official response is a pretty stupid stance.

They're basically saying they'll pay them whatever they want whenever they want and they should just shut up and deal with it. I hope Infinity Ward destroy them but to be honest, it'll likely get locked in court for years.