Former Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella have already been sued by Activision for breach of contract, and Activision sued them right back, but now things are getting interesting. In a brand-new suit brought by Activision, Infinity Ward’s creators and EA are accused of undermining Call of Duty: Black Ops and developer Treyarch and luring customers away from the brand. Activision is also claiming that EA took illegal measures to lure Infinity Ward developers away from Activision in 2009.
A lengthy legal filing today alleges that “Electronic Arts set out to destabilize, disrupt, and to attempt to destroy Infinity Ward. Although the precise dates the scheme was conceived and initiated remain somewhat unknown to Activision it was clearly underway no later than July 30, 2009.”
The filing also names Jason West and Vince Zampella specifically as co-conspirators and details several purported instances where they worked with Electronic Arts to try to discredit Treyarch, even before Infinity Ward was dissolved. One such instance involved the release of a Modern Warfare 2 trailer on the same day a Treyarch-developed World at War trailer was released.
Activision alleges that the bosses at Infinity Ward did this to further their “secret plan” of bolstering their personal brands before defecting to another company.
Activision’s filing even goes as far as to attack West and Zampella’s character and says, “Although West and Zampella preferred to portray themselves – both to the public and within Activision – as game developers often forced to battle with corporate “suits,” the reality was and is much different. They were small-minded executives almost obsessed by jealousy of other developers and the thought that another Activision game or studio might share their spotlight.”
These statements are quite inflammatory, and it will be interesting to see how EA will respond to these claims. The statements about sandbagging Treyarch and Black Ops are especially interesting, considering Black Ops has outsold both of the Modern Warfare titles developed by Infinity Ward. It might be a little difficult to prove that someone has done damage to a brand that has sold as much as Call of Duty since the Infinity Ward split.
West and Zampella’s attorney responded to this filing by releasing a statement saying, “Activision’s filing is a pathetic mash-up of false and reckless assertions, designed only to delay the march to justice for Jason West and Vince Zampella. But what else would you expect from a company that doesn’t let the truth get in its way?”
“This is a PR play filled with pettiness and deliberate misdirection,” EA’s head of communications Jeff Brown told Kotaku. “Activision wants to hide the fact that they have no credible response to the claim of two artists who were fired and now just want to get paid for their work.”