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Millions at stake in video gamers’ real-life battle

by on
in Firing,Human Resources

It’s hand-to-hand combat between video gaming giant Activision Publishing and two former executives of its Infinity Ward software development studio subsidiary. At stake in the courtroom war: Tens of millions of dollars in damages and untold millions in profits from Activision’s lucrative “Call of Duty” war gaming franchise.

Activision, based in Santa Monica, was originally on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed by former Infinity Ward executives Jason West and Vince Zampella. They sued Activision for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and wrongful termination.

Activision fired back with a suit of its own, claiming the executives were insubordinate and tried to damage the company. According to Activision’s suit, West and Zampella “morphed from valued, responsible executives into insubordinate and self-serving schemers who attempted to hijack Activision's assets for their own personal gain.”

The Activision lawsuit alleges that West’s and Zampella’s behavior threatened the future of Infinity Ward and the “Call of Duty” series, which Infinity Ward developed. The suit also claims that the two executives secretly met with senior executives of Activision competitors, planned to start their own studio and were scheming to poach a number of Activision employees.

West and Zampella recently announced the creation of a new studio, Respawn Entertainment, whose games will be published by an Activision rival. They are seeking more than $36 million in damages in addition to a permanent injunction to stop Activision from violating their rights with regard to the “Call of Duty” game.

Thirty-eight current and former Infinity Ward employees also recently filed suit against Activision, claiming the company owes them $125 million in unpaid royalties, as well as two years' worth of unpaid bonuses. They also seek an additional $500 million in punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs.

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