The ousted heads of the studio responsible for last year’s bestselling videogame are firing back at Activision. Jason West and Vince Zampella have filed suit against the publisher, alleging wrongful termination and breach of contract.
The pair, formerly the leaders of developer Infinity Ward, are seeking in excess of $36 million, future royalties for “Modern Warfare 2” and an injunction that would prevent Activision from releasing any additional “Modern Warfare” games or “Call of Duty” titles set in post-Vietnam War timeframes.
West and Zampella were fired Monday, charged with breach of contract and insubordination. In their lawsuit, the pair say the investigation into them began Feb. 3 and was the modern-day equivalent of a witch-hunt.
“From the very beginning, it was clear that the purpose of the investigation was not to uncover any facts concerning any actual wrongdoing but to manufacture a basis to fire West and Zampella,” reads the filing. “Activision refused to tell either West or Zampella what specific acts or omissions Activision believed they had committed or what was prompting the investigation, insisting instead in Orwellian fashion that West and Zampella ‘already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done.'”
A call and email to Activision for comment were not returned.
The pair maintain they were terminated “weeks” before they were to receive their first royalty payments for “Modern Warfare 2,” which has earned more than $1 billion worldwide since its November release.
The suit indicates the pair hopes to retain creative control over the brands in dispute. If they manage to do so, the damage could be significant to Activision. The “Call of Duty” franchise is one of the company’s most important. Wall Street analysts expect digitally downloaded expansion packs for the game could account for nearly $84 million in revenue this year alone.
Even if Activision wins the case or it is settled out of court, the gamemaker could still be hurt. Developer/publisher relations are delicate, and the harsh accusations in the filing could impact the company’s ability to lure creative talent in the future.