Former Call of Duty Devs Seek Ownership of Modern Warfare, Accuse ATVI of Fraud

By M.H. Williams

In an amended complaint obtained by GameSpot, ex-Infinity Ward execs Jason West and Vince Zampella added two counts of fraud to their suit against Activision.  The two gentlemen have alleged that the publisher entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2008, prior to Acitvision’s merger with Vivendi.  This contract was created to “address issues of significant concern to West and Zampella, particularly in the area of creative authority over the Modern Warfare games and the creation of a look, feel, and brand for the Modern Warfare games.”

According to West and Zampella, the contract included total creative control and a bonus plan based on the operating income of certain titles, including the blockbuster Modern Warfare 2.  The duo also negotiated a final say over any Modern Warfare-branded titles or licenses. 

“To protect its interest in consummating its merger with Vivendi Games, Activision needed to do everything it could to keep West and Zampella content with their responsibilities and compensation at Infinity Ward. This gave West and Zampella considerable bargaining power in their negotiations with Activision,” reads the complaint.

The contract reportedly stipulated that financial incentives and creative control were subject to continued employment.  With assurances of continued job security from Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, both gentlemen signed the contract, committing to three years of employment. In the amended complaint, the pair stated that they now believe that Activision never intended to honour the contract. 

“While paying lip-service to West’s and Zampella’s creative authority, in 2008 and thereafter, Activision began secret development of Modern Warfare and Call of Duty games and related products, and undertook other conduct in relation to these two video game franchises that, under the MOU, required prior approval from West and Zampella,” stated the amended complaint.

“Activision did not inform West or Zampella of such plans or seek their input or approval for them. Indeed, while breaching the creative authority provisions of the MOU, Activision continued to pay lip-service to them, in an attempt to mask its secret development efforts.”

West and Zampella’s legal representation told GameSpot that in addition to damages, the duo is also looking for a rescission of the MOU.  That would give West and Zampella co-ownership of theModern Warfare brand, allowing them to release their own titles in the series.  That could be a huge blow to Activision; would the Call of Duty franchise be able to weather the loss of the Modern Warfare line?

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