Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella have filed a lawsuit against Activision citing "breach of contract", following their abrupt removal as heads of the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare developers.
Law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP released an official announcement confirming a Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit by the duo against Activision Publishing, Inc., claiming that "Activision terminated their employment weeks before they were to be paid substantial royalty payments as part of their existing contracts for Modern Warfare 2."
The suit includes claims for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, wrong termination in violation of public policy, and declaratory relief, and was filed "to vindicate the rights of West and Zampella to be paid the compensation they have earned, as well as the contractual rights Activision granted to West and Zampella to control Modern Warfare-branded games."
The duo's comments confirm Gamasutra-reported claims that only Infinity Ward may make games in the Modern Warfare series, and that conflict over this appears to be one of the reasons behind the duo's removal.
West and Zampella developed two of the most successful video games in history – Call of Duty and Modern Warfare – at the Infinity Ward studio, a company they co-founded in 2001. After its acquisition by Activision in November 2003, West and Zampella served as president/game director and CEO, respectively.
"Activision has refused to honor the terms of its agreements and is intentionally flouting the fundamental public policy of this State (California) that employers must pay their employees what they have rightfully earned," said their attorney Robert Schwartz.
"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."
"We were shocked by Activision's decision to terminate our contract," said West. "We poured our heart and soul into that company, building not only a world class development studio, but assembling a team we've been proud to work with for nearly a decade. We think the work we've done speaks for itself."
Zampella added, "After all we have given to Activision, we shouldn't have to sue to get paid."
For Activision's part, the company made an SEC filing on March 1st, just before the change, claiming: "The Company is concluding an internal human resources inquiry into breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward... This matter is expected to involve the departure of key personnel and litigation." The firm has not yet commented on this latest development.