While we are happy to buy the products and lose countless hours in the latest “must-have” title, most of us are oblivious to what happens behind the scenes when it comes to making a video game. The talents of the artists, designers, voice talent, producers and musicians all shine through in the finished product, but there are countless bureaucratic and legal processes that we never hear about. One of the unfortunate realities of the industry is legal disputes, including a high-profile lawsuit between Activision and Call of Duty creators Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. This lawsuit began in 2010 and finally reached a conclusion today with a settlement reached.
The lawsuit in question began in 2010 when Activision fired West and Zampella, two senior executives from Infinity Ward, the developers of the landmark Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The reasons for the termination were cited as “insubordination” and “breach of contract.” Shortly thereafter, Activision formed a unit specifically for the Call of Duty franchise, at which point West and Zampella filed a lawsuit for breach of contract and wrongful dismissal. Activision promptly filed a counter-suit and the litigation raged for almost two years.
The above represents a truncated overview of the lawsuit, and there are obviously details left out for the sake of brevity in this article. An interesting fact worth noting is that West and Zampella went on to form Respawn Entertainment, an independent development studio that struck a publishing deal with Electronic Arts (EA). Activision responded by adding EA to the lawsuit, accusing them for “employee poaching” by luring key talent (West and Zampella) away from Activision. The damages sought: $400 million. This part of the lawsuit was settled in May 2012, the results of which have not been publicly disclosed.
The details of the settlement reached today between Activision and West and Zampella are confidential and unlikely to be released. During the span of this lawsuit, both Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 were released and both sold exceptionally well. With the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Black Ops II in November, and strong earnings this financial quarter, Activision is unlikely to be hurting for money even if the outcome of this lawsuit proved unfavorable for them.