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Activision Suit Over West, Zampella's Relationship With EA To Move Forward
Activision Suit Over West, Zampella's Relationship With EA To Move Forward
March 16, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

March 16, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
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    9 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



A California Superior Court judge has ruled that a $400 million Activision lawsuit brought against Electronic Arts, regarding the company's hiring of Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella, can move forward.

Bloomberg reports Judge Elihu Berle dismissed only one of four claims in the suit, leaving intact three related allegations that EA met with the Call of Duty creators and their agents while they were still with Activision, in breach of their contracts.

Activision's suit was initially filed against West and Zampella alone, in response to a separate lawsuit brought against Activision by the pair. That suit alleged that Activision fired West and Zampella in order to avoid paying $36 million in royalties following the sales success of Modern Warfare 2.

Activision later redistributed those royalties to the remaining employees at Infinity Ward, though many such employees decided to leave Activision in order to join West and Zampella's independent Respawn Entertainment, which had signed a publishing deal with EA.

Electronic Arts was added as a cross-defendant in Activision's countersuit in December, on charges of contract interference. EA asked for the case to be dismissed due to a lack of evidence, but today's ruling seems to establish that Activision has a strong enough case to be argued further.

In an interview with Gamasutra last May, EA Games president Frank Gibeau said the company's deal with Respawn Entertainment "fell into our laps" after West and Zampella's firing.

In January. West and Zampella accused Activision of dragging out court proceedings in the case, leading legal fees surrounding the case to exceed salary payments for Respawn Entertainment.

Activision's suit is expected to go to trial starting in May.


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Comments


Tim Carter
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Game developers should pay close attention to this. What is at stake is basically whether or not you are in control of your own destiny.



In my opinion, you are fools for not fighting to be free agents or other creative rights. You are conceding your rights as creators, and precedent will soon be set. But hey, that's just my opinion.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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I have left direct messages to three of your comments over the last year or two asking you to get in touch with me about how I can help, and you never reply and go onto another article to tout how everyone should be following your model. I am going to assume that you just happened to not go back to those articles, which is fair enough, but understand how frustrating this is for me.



I agree with you. Get in touch with me. eiyukabe at gmail. Again. I'm going to change this industry with or without you, but it will be a lot easier if we work together. I want to know more about your company, how it's going, how I can help, if you have a forum of communication with any other like-minded people.

raigan burns
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I think it's pretty straightforward: when you sell your company to someone else, you're selling your control over it. If you want to remain in control, don't sell; if you sell, live with the consequences.

Tim Carter
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True.



That's why game developers should get a good backend deal.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"Judge Elihu Berle dismissed only one of four claims in the suit, which alleges EA met with the Call of Duty creators and their agents while they were still with Activision, in breach of their contracts."



I don't get this, without this Activision doesn't have a leg to stand on. Why dismiss the keystone of their argument but support the rest? Their other concerns such as West and Zampella taking excessive royalties from their studio were concerns that could have been addressed earlier, either by enforcing a different royalty cut if Activision had such power or negotiating/suing earlier if they did not. It is even more evident that this is just a business strategy/childish retort and not an ethical self-defense on Activision's part, and as such should not be allowed to waste courtroom time. But hey, no one's surprised that a corporation worth billions of dollars somehow gets courtroom attention.

Kyle Orland
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Ah, I guess I worded that unclearly. The entire suit alleges those things. The four claims are all extremely similar, and only one of them was dismissed. Will reword to clarify this.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Oh, I gotcha. Yeah I reread it with your comment in mind and it makes sense.

David Serrano
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Is it just me who thinks the "evidence" Activision has about communications between W & Z and EA prior to their release wreaks of wire-tapping? I mean, I have to assume W & Z were smart enough not to communicate with their employer's largest competitor directly from their Infinity Ward offices. If that's the case then how exactly did Activision manage to document so many private conversations and messages?

William Barnes
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That is a good question. AND the subsequent question is, was how they did it completely legal? If not, technically it has to be thrown out.


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