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Modern Warfare lawsuit accuses Activision of "unbridled greed"

IW staff not receiving fair share of profits; pressure could "burn out" employees

More details of the lawsuit bought against Activision by former Infinity Ward employees have emerged, in which the Call of Duty publisher is accused of "astonishing arrogance and unbridled greed".

Filed by Jason West and Vince Zampella – who were sacked from the wholly-owned studio Infinity Ward this week – the pair detailed alleged working conditions and the process that led to the developers being ejected from the studio they helped found back in 2003.

"West and Zampella were not as eager as Activision to jump into the development of Modern Warfare 2," stated the 16-page document, reprinted on IGN. "Despite assurances by Activision that West and Zampella would have complete freedom to run Infinity Ward as an independent studio, Activision had begun to intrude upon Infinity Ward's ability to create quality games.

"For example, Activision forced Infinity Ward's employees to continue producing the games at a breakneck pace under aggressive schedules, and West and Zampella were concerned that Activision was emphasising quantity over quality.

"Given Activision's insistence that Infinity Ward continue to focus on sequels to Call of Duty games instead of new intellectual property, West and Zampella were also concerned that Activision's demands risked 'burning out' the Infinity Ward employees' creativity. Nurturing a creative environment had been one of the cornerstones of Infinity Ward's success.

"West and Zampella were not eager to extend their employment; especially as they watched their games receive countless awards and make Activision billions of dollars, while many Infinity Ward employees were not being provided a fair share."

The pair are suing Activision for upwards of $36 million, the creative control of the Modern Warfare brand and the right to approve any Call of Duty games set after the Vietnam war.

The lawsuit asserts that after the release of Modern Warfare 2, Activision set up an investigation to "manufacture a basis to fire West and Zampella". An SEC filing from earlier in the week accuses the pair of breach of contract and insubordination.

When they enquired about the investigation, the lawsuit states that the were told in "Orwellian fashion that West and Zampella 'already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done'"

The document also claims West and Zampella were "interrogated for over six hours" in a windowless room and that other Infinity Ward employees were bought to tears by questioning.

Yesterday, English lawyer and litigation expert Jas Purewal suggested that future Modern Warfare releases could be vetoed by the pair if the court rules in their favour.

Activision has dismissed the lawsuit as "meritless" and said that it is disappointed that West and Zampella have taken legal action.

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Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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