Treyarch’s next game in the Call of Duty franchise could be in breach of a studio agreement signed in 2008 by both Activision and Infinity Ward executives.
Black Ops II is the first original Call of Duty game developed by Treyarch that plays out modern-day and futuristic scenes, yet a Memorandum of Understanding suggests the studio is prohibited from framing its games within the “post-Vietnam” era.
Activision representatives, as well as Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia, declined to comment on the matter when approached by Game Informer.
The Infinity Ward Memorandum of Understanding was agreed two years before studio directors Vince Zampella and Jason West were dismissed by Activision, in a move that sparked a acrimonious and highly public lawsuit.
It is not understood if Activision’s Memorandum of Understanding with Infinity Ward is still binding. The company has not clarified the situation.
The agreement, signed in March 2008, granted Activision authority and responsibility over all titles within the Call of Duty franchise, excluding “any Call of Duty title set in modern day (post-Vietnam), near future or distant future, which shall be under the authority of Infinity Ward”.
If the documents are still binding, Activision has found itself in a complex three-cornered authority system where Infinity Ward (now the smaller studio), has creative authority over Treyarch (now the bigger studio) due to the latter’s decision to set its game in a post-Vietnam era.
It is uncertain when Treyarch commenced production on Call of Duty Black Ops 2, though it was likely between late 2010 and early 2011 – conceivably just a few months after the Infinity Ward lawsuit.
Further documents suggest Treyarch has hit brick walls in the past when trying to modernise its games.
One incident involved depicting guns in Black Ops that weren’t designed or made available until the 1980s or 1990s.
The Memorandum of Understanding shows that Infinity Ward had in 2008 negotiated significant creative control over the Modern Warfare franchise.
Activision owns both Infinity Ward and Treyarch.
Dozens of Infinity Ward staff sued Activision in 2010, in two separate yet linked cases of alleged royalty miss-payments and unfair dismissal.
A trial is set to commence in June.