The battle between former Infinity Ward heads – Jason West & Vince Zampella – and Activision only seems to be getting uglier. After being fired from Activision in the beginning of March, West and Zampella filed a lawsuit against Activision in a Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday, seeking to force the company to pay them their royalty dues, apart from claims of breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrong termination in violation of public policy, and declaratory relief.
The former IW heads say the company "manufacture[d] a basis" to terminate their employment before they received the payment of royalties from Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2), and are seeking damages in excess of $36 million.
West and Zampella have garnered the sympathy of the entire developing and gaming community, and this lawsuit makes their stand all the more tragic, "After all we have given to Activision, we shouldn't have to sue to get paid."
Apart from the royalties due, West and Zampella's other bones of contention include the fact that Activision did not hold up its Employee Agreement, as well as the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed last March. The MOU gave West and Zampella "creative authority over the development of any games under the Modern Warfare brand (or any Call of Duty game set in the post-Vietnam era, the near future, or the distant future) including complete control over the Infinity Ward Studio". The MOU also says no game so described can be "commercially released without the written consent of West and Zampella."
West and Zampella go on to say that the MOU also gave them the right to operate Infinity Ward independently from Activision, and allowed them to develop new intellectual property after the completion of MW2.
The 16-page lawsuit (viewable here) also says that Activision launched a “pre-textual investigation against West and Zampella to create a basis to fire the two co-heads of Infinity Ward”, and said investigation made the relations between IW and Activision very hostile. Activision launched the investigation with an interrogation of West and Zampella in a “windowless conference room” for “over six hours”, and “brought other Infinity Ward employees to tears in their questioning and accusations and threatened West and Zampella with 'insubordination' if they attempted to console them."
The duo's attorney, Robert Schwartz says “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."
Activsion responded to these claims yesterday, saying that it is “disappointed” with West and Zampella's accusations, and calling them "meritless". They went on to say that the shareholders of Activision provided Infinity Ward with the "financial support, resources and creative independence that helped them flourish and achieve enormous professional success and personal wealth. In return, Activision legitimately expected them to honor their obligations to Activision, just like any other executive who holds a position of trust in the company. While the company showed enormous patience, it firmly believes that its decision was justified based on their course of conduct and actions. Activision remains committed to the Call of Duty franchise, which it owns, and will continue to produce exciting and innovative games for its millions of fans."