UPDATE: it seems the lawsuit is going ahead with a trial date of potentially late this year/early next year. I spoke to Develop about it here.
We all know the story by now: back in 2009 Jason West and Vince Zampella, then the heads of Infinity Ward (the Activision-owned developer behind the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series) resigned in acrimonious circumstances and promptly sued Activision for substantial amounts of monies. Cue a massive brawl developing over the next months, including: dozens of Infinity Ward developers also suing Activision for unpaid bonuses; Activision countersuing West and Zampella; and finally, Activision suing EA for up to $400m for its part in allegedly wooing West and Zampella away. This whole shooting match was scheduled for trial to start on May 23rd, 2011 (i.e. 3 days ago). What’s happened?
Answer: it’s still very much alive but it hasn’t gone to trial yet and everyone still arguing about it, apparently. According to the LA Superior Court website, the case is still rumbling away, with the parties still debating a number of preliminary issues. All of which suggests that a trial is still some distance away.
None of this is particularly surprising, mind you – the timeframe in large litigation often slips as unforeseen developments crop up. In this case, the addition of a massive claim by Activision against EA in particular was always going to have an impact on the progress of the litigation. Still, no doubt we’ll hear about a renewed trial date in due course.
As I’ve written about before (see here), this is no ordinary lawsuit in the games industry. It involves one of the largest franchise in the modern games industry – Modern Warfare – some big personalities, huge amounts of money and – above all – as far as I know, it will be the first time that Activision and EA have squared off against each other in major litigation.
And they’re all fighting for pretty high stakes. West and Zampella are hoping for big pay-offs from Activision as well as creative control of the Modern Warfare series, while Activision wants to retain control of its most valuable IP and now win up to $400m from EA. As I said in a previous post, in 2010 EA suffered net losses of $677m and had net total assets were worth $2.729 billion, so having potentially to pay $400m to Activision would be a real headache (assuming of course that Activision wins, which is completely uncertain atm).
As always in litigation of this kind, we have to watch and wait to see what happens next. Many people predicted this case would have settled by now, but it shows no signs of doing so just yet…