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Report: Updated Infinity Ward Lawsuit Alleges Activision 'Police State'
Report: Updated Infinity Ward Lawsuit Alleges Activision 'Police State'
July 9, 2010 | By Chris Remo

July 9, 2010 | By Chris Remo
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    14 comments
More: Console/PC



In an update to a lawsuit filed against Activision this April, a group of current and former Infinity Ward employees claim Activision instituted a "police state" mentality at the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series developer, aimed at forcing the studio into creating the next Modern Warfare game.

According to a Kotaku report, the amendment to the April suit was filed in California today, with a court date set for May 23, 2011.

Furthermore, while the group was originally seeking unpaid bonuses and punitive damages totaling up to approximately $625 million, today's revision apparently cuts that figure by well over half to $216 million, at most.

That suit was preceded by one filed by ousted Infinity Ward bosses Jason West and Vince Zampella the prior month, against which Activision filed a countersuit. According to Kotaku, a judge will hold a hearing August 5 of this year to determine whether the two lawsuits against Activision can be consolidated into a single trial.


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Comments


DaFacts1on1 Jack
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This whole situation is a bit bizarre. So Activision is policing "the best FPS developer" not because they're incompetent but because they want another MW product? This language is vague. Policing from what perspective? Too the degree of coercion or fear of bodily harm or personal and or financial injury to each and everyone developing the project? Uuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh all 130+employees?



If policing means Activision inserted their own people from the publishing firm in IW studio (& I hope that's not what this means) then SO WHAT,...the IP is owned by Activision "the publisher".

It appears that IW didn't own the rights to it. Lawsuit says nothing to that letter. These allegations won't hold merit in court.



However if it wides up that it was indeed the other way around then fine, I hope EX-IW guys collect.

It's not abnormal to have publishers visit or in some case hang around the studio for a bit. Why shouldn't they, their paying for it. Now I "myself" don't care for watch dogs or THE HAND IN THE COOKIE JAR sort of thing where publishers want to dictate what's what. In the end, you get stuck with 90 percent of the blame when the product suffers side effects of WTF is this crap and don't get me wrong, there's a lot of publishers that are filled with these hacks that no nothing about development FUN.



To that degree, I can understand why studios wouldn't want this sort of infestation to take place in their house.



The question is: why would they feel they'd have to this in the first place? Weird!!!!!





Here's my view, I'm wishing Jason and Vince the best because in the mix of it all, the talent is what matters and as a free country everyone has the right to exercise alternative avenues of success. Especially when it comes to DITCHING YOUR PUBLISHER IF THEY BECOME AN EXTREME PAIN IN THE A$$! Infinity Ward is probably the only group of guys that can own that opportunity. Publishers need to know that even if you own an IP, that doesn't give you the right to disrupt the studio's environment especially when a studio has credibility and track record of bringing in serious revenues. Its bad business.



With that regard I'm on their side and can't wait till they get back on their feet.



Good luck guys,...Hopefully other publishers will watch this one and learn from this example.

Thomas Lo
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Bobby Kotick has created such a great environment for drawing new talent to the company: work for us! Just don't be too successful!

Tadhg Kelly
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Does this basically boil down to ATV wanted IW to make lots and lots of Call of Duty games, and IW didn't really want to do that?



That's what it seems like anyway.

Steven Brekelmans
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This happens time and time again - if you don't want to lose the freedom to direct your own destiny, don't sell your company. Be it losing creative freedom, intellectual property freedom or decision making freedom, once money has been accepted for ownership, the keys to the company belong to someone else.

Carl Chavez
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@Andre: Although Activision has the right to demand further CoD:MW from IW, they shouldn't be holding back the royalties and bonuses from previously released games from the employees until the next game is released. Don't forget: that's the basis of the suit.



If it can be proven that the original agreements tied the disputed bonuses and royalties to CoD:MW and CoD:MW2 and *not* to CoD:MW3, and if those agreements are legally binding, then the employees have a good case.

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DaFacts1on1 Jack
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@Dave Smith,..I happen to agree with you Dave. Publisher doesn't have the right in deciding this mainly because in IW's case, this was agreed upon years before 2015 members became IW during the negotiation phase with Activision. These provisions where already set in terms of the payment guidelines. So in this case, Activision is in the wrong. Publishers do restructure payment bonuses from time to time however, with studios that are not considered flagships, they usually have to go with whatever the publisher rams down their throats.



Awesome business we're in.



Regardless I think everyone can agree that this is insane. Lots of money was made on this franchise already. Just because other studios are now handling this brand doesn't mean that it'll measure up to the success of it's predecessor. This will be interesting indeed.

Tim Carter
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@Dave: I don't think Andre is actually suggesting Acti would "enslave" IW. Rather, he's saying that it was incumbent on IW to negotiate a contract that IW felt comfortable with. If IW did that, but then wanted to go back and renegotiate later on - which it appears they wanted to once they realized how big CoD was becoming - that's a bit disingenuous.



The simple fact is IW sold itself to Acti for $5 million. If they believed CoD would be a monster hit, they could have negotiated terms for participation somehow at the time of the acquisition (or not been acquired). If game developers want more, they need to take ownership of this desire and advocate for themselves.

Thomas Lo
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Looks like Bobby Kotick hired some viral internet marketers, one of whose name is Andre Thomas. Publishers and developers are in a mutually beneficial relationship and sign contracts as such. The more powerful and successful the developer, the better the terms.



If I would have gambled on any developer to make new blockbuster franchises, IW would have been at the top of that list as they had already launched two successful franchises in Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. However, Activision as an entity has become overly dependent on COD as a franchise with their guitar hero and tony hawk franchises cratering under bad managemetn.



They clearly saw they could have sales nearly as good with alternate developers and ride the brand name into the ground. They thought that having control of the IP and forcing a yearly release schedule would be better to their margins in the next few years and worth the loss of talent, industry goodwill, and future quality than keeping on Infinity Ward and came up with some legal bs excuse to do so.



Bobby Kotick is laughing all the way to the bank and cashing out of the company in the next 2-3 years most likely.



Again we are seeing a boneheaded executive sacrifice long-term shareholder value in order to maximize shareholder gain.



That redheaded nincompoop is no better than the boneheads at AIG and other financial firms.

Thomas Lo
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maximize short-term gain*

Ian Uniacke
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@bob: my understanding would be that if you have an agreement (employment contract for example) that states you will be payed a bonus under specific conditions (eg if this game sells more than 8 million copies you will receive $50,000) than it is encumbant upon Activision to fulfil that agreement whether it's classed as salary or a bonus. The thing that is in question to me is whether employees had these agreements. What shouldn't be in question is the details of these agreements. Details are irrelevant if it was understood on good faith that the bonuses would be awarded under certain conditions, and the courts will generally rule thusly.

Guillermo Romero
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The title made me think a new CoD was coming out called "Police State". Sounded kind of fun. Oh well...

Matt Cratty
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Withholding bonuses until employees signed an agreement to finish the next game (if that indeed took place) makes ATV the bad guys in this one. Right now its all alleged, but it sure smells pretty badly.

Jeff Curley
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I don't think it's fair to say bonuses were being held "ransom".



I heard that the IW founders wanted to do something different and Activision wanted them to continue working on the same IP (Call of Duty).


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