Activision Drags EA Into Infinity Ward Lawsuit
Activision has named Electronic Arts in a cross-complaint in the case involving former Infinity Ward studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella.
According to Gamasutra, Activision has filed an amendment to the original cross-complaint it filed in April, now alleging EA were complicit in the events leading up to West and Zampella’s abrupt departure from Infinity Ward in March.
The pair duly sued Activision, claiming the publisher engineered their departure weeks before substantial royalty bonuses were due to be paid for them for the success of Modern Warfare 2. Activision filed a cross-complaint claiming West and Zampella were guilty of insubordination and breaches of contract and fiduciary duty, which the duo deny.
Activision’s amendment to the cross-complaint claims EA were actively courting West and Zampella as early as July 2009, saying the publisher “conspired to set up an independent company staffed by key Activision employees, including designers, programmers, artists, and others from Infinity Ward."
The amendment says EA did so "with full knowledge that the executives were under contract and legally committed to Activision for more than two additional years” and that “emboldened by their secret alliance with Electronic Arts, the executives refused to adhere to even the minimal standards of behaviour required of any employee or executive."
The filing claims that in August 2009 EA flew Zampella and West by private jet to the San Francisco home of EA CEO John Riccitiello for a secret meeting, and that “the negotiations were structured with the design and the expectation that West and Zampella would 'spin out' from Activision and take significant numbers of key Infinity Ward employees with them to set up their own independent company.”
So it proved, with the duo setting up new studio Respawn Entertainment, where they were joined by several former Infinity Ward members, and announced a publishing deal with EA.
In direct contradiction of the pair’s claim that they were fired to avoid bonus payouts, Activision says West and Zampella refused to co-operate with the process that would see their staff paid bonuses, instead “appropriating for themselves approximately one-third of the total Infinity Ward bonus pool each quarter”, hoping it would make it easier to lure staffers away with them.
Activision is seeking $400 million in damages from EA, West and Zampella. The cross-complaint must be answered by the three, and the case could continue even once West and Zampella’s case against Activision has been resolved or settled.