The startling events surrounding the dismal of Infinity Ward’s Jason West and Vince Zampella earlier this week has been laid out in a court document posted by IGN.
West and Zampella were dumped by Activision following an investigation into insubordination and breach of contract. Reports suggested security staff escorted the two from the studio, before Activision CEO Bobby Kotick met with Infinity Ward staff.
Following the news, Activision created a new Call of Duty business unit, and revealed a new Call of Duty game is being developed by Sledgehammer Games.
And now West and Zampella are taking Activision to court for unpaid royalties and unfair dismissal.
The document reveals some startling information on the relationship between Infinity Ward and Activision, as well as the investigation that led to the dismissal of West and Zampella.
The two former Infinity Ward bosses accuse Activision of forcing them out so it can claim control of the Modern Warfare and Call of Duty franchises, as well as not pay the substantial sums of money owed to them and Infinity Ward staff following the completion of Modern Warfare 2.
Below is the full diary of events according to West and Zampella’s court documents.
- Activision approached West and Zampella after the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to develop a sequel to the game, and offered to extend their employment contracts.
- According to the court documents, West and Zampella were initially reluctant, and were concerned over Activision’s involvement in Infinity Ward. Activision apparently had ‘forced Infinity Ward’s employees to continue producing the games at break neck pace under aggressive schedules.’ West and Zampella were concerned it was damaging creatively within the studio. They were also concerned that they were being asked to develop sequels instead of new IP.
- To persuade West and Zampella to stay and create Modern Warfare 2, Activision offered them a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). The MOU gave West and Zampella creative authority over the Modern Warfare brand, as well as Call of Duty games set in the post-Vietnam era and into the distant future. The MOU stated that no such game can be commercially released without the written consent of West and Zampella.
- The MOU also gave West and Zampella the right to operate Infinity Ward independently and to develop new IP after the completion of Modern Warfare 2, if they wished.
- Furthermore, the MOU stated that in addition to standard and bonus compensation, additional payments would be made to West and Zampella, as well as Infinity Ward staff. These included a pool of Restricted Stock Units stock options, a royalty for any Call of Duty game as well as royalties for any Activision game that makes use of Infinity Ward’s technology.
- West and Zampella delivered Modern Warfare 2 five days ahead of time and was launched to huge success. Shortly after, Activision launched an investigation into West and Zampella, in order to, according to the report, ‘create a basis to fire the two co-heads of Infinity Ward.’
- Outside law firms as well as internal Activision staff were involved in the investigation. According to the court documents, Activision refused to tell West and Zampella what they were being investigated for. Instead saying that the two ‘already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done.’
- West and Zampella were told that Activision were investigating breaches of contract and violations of Activision policies. The publisher apparently threatened that anything less that full co-operation with the investigation would constitute insubordination, which itself would justify their termination.
- The court documents go on to state that the investigation was designed to cause ‘maximum inconvenience and anxiety’. This included conducting interviews over the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend (February 13th and 14th). West and Zampella were apparently interrogated for over six hours in a windowless room, while other investigators brought Infinity Ward employees to tears. Activision apparently threatened West and Zampella with ‘insubordination’ if they were to console their staff.
- Activision demanded West and Zampella to surrender their computers, phones and communication devices for review. When West and Zampella asserted their legally protected privacy rights, Activision’s counsel said that this would constitute further acts of insubordination.
- Activision terminated West and Zampella for events that the two of them ‘were never even asked about.’ In particular, conduct from over a year ago while West and Zampella were working on Modern Warfare 2. According to the document, this conduct was not investigated at the time, but only after West and Zampella had delivered Modern Warfare 2.
- West and Zampella accuse Activision of only given them six hours to respond to these charges, but that doing so would be futile anyway because ‘Activision had already made up its mind.’
- West and Zampella are still owed all their bonuses related to both the MOU and employment agreement. When asked, Activision refused to confirm if such payments would be paid to them. Both West and Zampella believes this exposes ‘the very purpose of this entire charade.’
- The day after the dismissals, Activision launched a new Call of Duty business unit, and took control of the Modern Warfare brand and the Infinity Ward studio.
- West and Zampella request at least $36 million for breaching the employment agreement and MOU.
- Both West and Zampella request a temporary or permanent injunction against the release of any Modern Warfare game, or Call of Duty title set in the post-Vietnam era, near future or distant future.