Activision and Infinity Ward fall out, Mr Lawsuit beckons?

2nd UPDATE 03/03/10 at 14:02

More info here and here.  The current position seems to be:

  • Activision has confirmed that Zampello and West have left Infinity Ward.  MCV reports that chief technology officer Steve Ackrich will replace the now departed West and Zampella as head of Infinity Ward on an interim basis.
  • Sledgehammer Games, a new Activision internal studio, are being brought into the CoD picture, apparently to “extend the franchise into the action-adventure genre”.  Not clear what that really means.
  • Activision says that Infinity Ward will remain a key part of CoD, but again it’s not clear how
  • No word yet as to any legal action by Activision against the former Infinity Ward execs or vice versa

UPDATE 02/03/10 at 15:30

According to BingeGamer (via VG247):

  • Activision has not yet paid Infinity Ward any royalties for Modern Warfare 2, and
  • Infinity Ward’s contract with Activision ends in October 2010, but the rights to the Call of Duty IP are split between them
  • Infinity Ward may have been in discussions with a possible future publisher (not Activision)

It’s worth stressing that all of this derives from BingeGamer’s sources and remains to be verified.  Moreover, Activision has yet to make any statement setting out its side of the story.

BUT, if those three points above are true, then it could mean that Infinity Ward has a royalties claim against Activision and there is the possibility of either a big deal or a big lawsuit over the ownership of the highly lucrative Call of Duty franchise.  Then, on top of that, there are the allegations regarding Activision and Infinity Ward’s management (see below).

Curiouser and curiouser…


Rumours are rife that something big is happening between Activision and the current management of Infinity Ward, developers of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.  From what we can piece together from the games blogosphere:

  • G4 reported (which came to us via VG247) that, in an Activision SEC filing, Activision stated it was carrying out “a human resources investigation into ‘breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward.‘”.  It continued: “This matter is expected to involve the departure of key personnel and litigation,” read the filing…At present, the Company does not expect this matter to have a material impact on the Company.”
  • At around the same time, G4 saidInfinity Ward studio heads Vince Zampella and Jason West reportedly met with Activision this morning and have not been seen by Infinity Ward staff members since“.
  • Later that same day, “a bunch of bouncer typesshowed up at Infinity Ward’s offices
  • A screen shot then surfaced from Infinity Ward CTO Jason West’s Facebook page at Kotaku with the status update “Jason West is drinking. Also, unemployed.”
  • Similarly, G4 said that West had updated his Linkedin profile to appears to reflect a change in employment

Unresolved questions:

  • What are the “breaches of contract and insubordination“?  Will/when will litigation be started and against whom? 
  • Will it be against Zampella and West?  Why did they leave?
  • Why is all this happening now?
  • Most importantly, what impact will this have on Activision’s share price and plans for future Call of Duty titles?

Watch this space…

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