Infinity Ward founders fired, sue Activision, war of words commences

A battle between the founders of Call of Duty developer Infinity Ward, and publisher Activision, which started earlier this week has continued to intensify with the pair filing a lawsuit against Activision.

The spat first broke earlier this week, with reports from G4 of a "bunch of bouncer-types" showing up at the Infinity Ward offices without notice before company founders, Vince Zampella and Jason West, met with Activision bosses. It was later reported that indeed, both men had been sacked by Activision amongst accusations of insubordination.

The two former Infinity Ward founders responded to the accusations of breach of contract and insubordination with a lawsuit, which alleges that despite the pair being granted contractual rights to control the Modern Warfare franchise, Activision "seized control of the Infinity Ward studio".

According to Kotaku, the $36 million lawsuit contends that rather than pay the royalty cheque due to the developers for the very successful Modern Warfare 2, Activision decided to "launch a pre-textual investigation… to create a basis to fire the two co-heads of Infinity Ward before the first Modern Warfare 2 royalty payment would be paid..."

The lawsuit continues, "From the very beginning, it was clear that the purpose of the investigation was not to uncover any facts concerning any actual wrongdoing, but to manufacture a basis to fire West and Zampella."

In what the pair claim as an investigation conducted "in Orwellian fashion" the two were told that they "already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done," and that "anything less than their full cooperation with the inquisition would constitute insubordination."

"Activision conducted the investigation in a manner designed to maximize the inconvenience and anxiety it would cause West and Zampella," it is alleged in the suit, which also says that the pair were "interrogated for over six hours in a windowless conference room."

The suit adds that other employees of Infinity Ward  were "brought…to tears" by Activision's investigators.

Speaking about the suit, the pair's attorney Robert Schwartz, said, "Activision has refused to honour the terms of its agreements and is intentionally flouting the fundamental public policy of this State (California) that employers must pay their employees what they have rightfully earned.

"Instead of thanking, lauding, or just plain paying Jason and Vince for giving Activision the most successful entertainment product ever offered to the public, last month Activision hired lawyers to conduct a pretextual 'investigation' into unstated and unsubstantiated charges of 'insubordination' and 'breach of fiduciary duty,' which then became the grounds for their termination on Monday, March 1st."

In a statement to Kotaku today, Activision said that they are "disappointed that Mr. Zampella and Mr. West have chosen to file a lawsuit, and believes their claims are meritless."

Speaking about the situation, Zampella said, "After all we have given to Activision, we shouldn't have to sue to get paid."

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69 Comments

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EVANK said,
After all the hard work with CODMW2 Activition throw them them to the lions.

While the game is great on consoles, for a game that started as a PC game, they sure didnt show us any love at all. Altho it is a great game, It made well over $1billion in sales, paying out a couple million is nothing, Im sure theres more to it then just the money, maybe the heads of activision and IW disagreed on MW2, maybe IW wanted to put in dedicated servers or vice versa, (meh, I can dream cant I?)

Edited by pjw, Mar 6 2010, 5:50pm :

Game developers need to get together and form some sort of union to protect themselves, and to make corporations understand that they are the main creative forces behind games.

I don't think the world's most successful and famous film directors and writers get interrogated treated like this.

Hate to sound selfish here but that just kills all future patches for the game. I assume now the hacks are going to get widespread without any potential fixes. Ah well that's the last CoD game I buy that's for sure.

I don't know about any of you, but I'm 38 and I remember the Atari 2600/Commodore 64 days when Activision was a somewhat small, good little company (or so it seemed) making some cute/fun games, like River Raid, Pitfall!, etc. But, I think they have, like EA, gone from those early days to be too big of a company (and unfocused) for their own good. And yes, I think they are greedy. They also could do a much better job of putting out patches and bug fixes for games as well (for the PC versions).

If the cofounders are telling the truth, then this is sad and I hope they mop up the floor with Activision.

I hope the truth comes out and the guilty party not only get's legal consequences but the gaming community punished whoever at fault.

I agree with the people bashing Activision here. I enjoy CoD for what it is, and what it comes down to is Infinity Ward making a great game, but being unfortunately associated with a crap company. If Infinity Ward and break off entirely, think of what they could accomplish to the world of gaming.

I love how everyone hears one side of the story and immediately knows who should win..

Not saying Activision was right, but saying we don't Know what Activision knows/thinks they were doing.. And asking the guys who just got fires/are suing, not exactly the most reliable source for accurate information about the whole thing.

If Activision were a country, they would be brought before the ICJ on charges of torture.

There is only one solution for us: stop buying Activision. On top of that, I think Infinity Ward should expand the lawsuit and attempt to take Activision for everything they have.

Bemani Dog said,
If Activision were a country, they would be brought before the ICJ on charges of torture.

There is only one solution for us: stop buying Activision. On top of that, I think Infinity Ward should expand the lawsuit and attempt to take Activision for everything they have.

Stop buying Activision, piracy is a lot cheaper!

:-P

Good maybe this will at least delay if not give them enough time to reconsider the entire point of the modern comedy franchise they've turned it into. If it means end of franchise would be good too really.

All I want to know is whos responsible for IWNET - then fire them!!

(pure speculation).......I think ACTIVISION - enabling them to turn it off when MW3 is made, forcing the sale - I base this on how many people are still playing MW1 on the PC (giving activision nothing) along with EA's recent moves, nothing short of ba**erds!

Yeah so they can make another dediciated serverless COD game with more hackers in a barrel and earn even more from those poor souls that bought it only to get wasted by headshots :P

Wow. Way to go Activision, MW was the best selling CoD game and they go and do this - great job.

I hope Infinity Ward are innocent and proven so.

Haegr said,
Wow. Way to go Activision, MW was the best selling CoD game and they go and do this - great job.

I hope Infinity Ward are innocent and proven so.

Agreed, job well done. :p

And the demise of CoD commences. The last CoD to come out this year will be the last "quality" release. I have yet to see a title resume success whether with a different publisher or production team. Have any of you?

MistaT40 said,
And the demise of CoD commences. The last CoD to come out this year will be the last "quality" release. I have yet to see a title resume success whether with a different publisher or production team. Have any of you?

The last "quality" release was the original MW

Frylock86 said,

The last "quality" release was the original MW

Even that was questionable, the multiplayer was an awful spam fest.

Pc_Madness said,

Even that was questionable, the multiplayer was an awful spam fest.

I agree, CoD sucks! ;)

Pc_Madness said,

Even that was questionable, the multiplayer was an awful spam fest.


But at least I had my dedicated servers and better PC gameplay!

Frylock86 said,

The last "quality" release was the original MW

No, the last quality one was CoD2, CoD4 was developed for the consoles and had a lot of half assed features ported from the consoles (ie: ranks, achievements)

panicswitched said,
id sue as well if i got fired right before being paid after the company made millions of dollars
And you too might loose your wife. ;)

DClark said,
Something is going wrong with the web site...
Well, sad to say it, but that's what you get for "trusting" a business.

Gotenks98 said,
Its just crazy, they going to run that CoD series into ground just like they did with Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk.
That's because "they" don't give a **** about the game. The developers do but not these asshats.

war said,
That's because "they" don't give a **** about the game. The developers do but not these asshats.

It would have been better for IW to drop the CoD title. For their sake at least.

I think after the success that they brought to Infinity ward and Activision , it will be hard for any judge to see what they don't deserve their monies. I think the greater picture is the principle of the matter.

If Infinity Ward is arrogant or not makes no difference, to be fair the company deserves the royalties. They were the ones that put in the hard yards at the end of the day. It would be like a musician toured with some pop singer and didn't get paid there cheque at the end of the tour.

essential said,
IF only they could use that money to host multiplayer servers -.-
Dream on my friend, dream on.

True be said the owners arent keeping to the contract and supporting the game properly. It may have a large sales profit but the overall customer satisfaction with Infinity ward is poor. Arrogance on the part of the owners if you ask me. Activision made claim that of fan wanted changes and the owners said they didnt want to spend the resources to improve the game but move on to the next project. I award Activision.

Prophecy said,
True be said the owners arent keeping to the contract and supporting the game properly. It may have a large sales profit but the overall customer satisfaction with Infinity ward is poor. Arrogance on the part of the owners if you ask me. Activision made claim that of fan wanted changes and the owners said they didnt want to spend the resources to improve the game but move on to the next project. I award Activision.

you can't really be sure ... maybe activision was pressuring them to move forward to the next release (COD has a "strict" two year release schedule if I am not mistaken)

Prophecy said,
True be said the owners arent keeping to the contract and supporting the game properly. It may have a large sales profit but the overall customer satisfaction with Infinity ward is poor. Arrogance on the part of the owners if you ask me. Activision made claim that of fan wanted changes and the owners said they didnt want to spend the resources to improve the game but move on to the next project. I award Activision.

Modern Warfare 2 has the most game-breakers I have ever seen. Infinity Ward needs to get on to fixing all the glitches and crap that has been put off. Activision and Treyarch fixed glitches within a week or two. Not waiting a month, plus.

Activision are become as bad as EA with their money grabbing! i hope the pair from IW win this 1, they deserve their money for making such a good and successful game.

philcruicks said,
Activision are become as bad as EA with their money grabbing! i hope the pair from IW win this 1, they deserve their money for making such a good and successful game.

Do NOT leave out ubisoft...they murdered Ghost Recon and are trying to revive it with ghost Recon future soldier or something like that

philcruicks said,
Activision are become as bad as EA with their money grabbing! i hope the pair from IW win this 1, they deserve their money for making such a good and successful game.

EA ain't that bad anymore, compare their website to Activisions, what do you see? Activision along with Bobby Kotick can go **** themselves.

Edited by Twisp, Mar 5 2010, 9:30am :

ChrisJ1968 said,

Do NOT leave out ubisoft...they murdered Ghost Recon and are trying to revive it with ghost Recon future soldier or something like that

Seems the way this works is:

1. Fund a game.
2. If game is successful buy developer.
3. Turn game into franchise.
4. If franchise successful rape and kill developer.
5. Franchise is now yours to completely ruin.
6. Rape gamers.
7. $$$

toadeater said,

Seems the way this works is:

1. Fund a game.
2. If game is successful buy developer.
3. Turn game into franchise.
4. If franchise successful rape and kill developer.
5. Franchise is now yours to completely ruin.
6. Rape gamers.
7. $$

Steal Underpants
??
Profit

philcruicks said,
Activision are become as bad as EA with their money grabbing! i hope the pair from IW win this 1, they deserve their money for making such a good and successful game.

On the bright side I can finally stop hating EA.

badblood said,

Softcat apparantly. It got voted the best company to work for in the UK.

And I remember something about Google being the best in the US to work for.

bjoswald said,
All of this over a game. It's such a sick, sad world...

You make it sound so insignificant. We're talking about a pretty big game here, in terms of dollars anyway.

Nagisan said,
People have killed over less...

Yup, i remember 2 years ago. A homeless person got killed by another homeless person for a beat down bike.

bjoswald said,
All of this over a game. It's such a sick, sad world...

well Activision killed the Silver Lining , something thats been in the works for free for 5-8 years. So yes activision is beyond a greedy company. Definately not a gamer company

http://www.tsl-game.com/ which is based in the Kings Quest world

Edited by DaveLegg, Mar 5 2010, 3:29am :

bjoswald said,
All of this over a game. It's such a sick, sad world...

Well they did say they were due a nice sized $36 million dollar check. I would probably sue too.

bjoswald said,
All of this over a game. It's such a sick, sad world...

LOL! To us it's a game, to them it IS a business. So all of this over business, yes, that's exactly what it is.

This is surprisingly common with scumbag employers. Fortunately, it's illegal. And now they get to sue for damages on top of what they are rightfully owed.

Nagisan said,
People have killed over less...

Like the millions that were killed for not being blonde with blue eyes? -.-

bjoswald said,
All of this over a game. It's such a sick, sad world...

It's about getting paid. Has nothing to do with a game it's a product they made which Activision made money on and should have in turn paid them.