It's been a while since we've last heard of the legal scuffle between Activision and former Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella, but rest assured the Call of Duty publisher has a long memory when it comes to things that dare cross them. To recap, West and Zampella were unceremoniously (and mysteriously) fired from their lofty positions at Infinity Ward back when it was the Call of Duty franchise was still its baby waaay back in March following a rather tense scene at the studio.
Apparently there was friction between Activision and the IW co-founders over unpaid royalties and rights to Call of Duty; indeed, West and Zampella would later sue Activision as a result of these. However, Activision fired back with accusations that they discovered both studio leads had designs to poison IW from within all along, all for the sake of steering it right into the hands of rival publisher Electronic Arts.
New details concerning Activision's complaints over conspiracy on the part of West and Zampella have surfaced from amended documents filed in court yesterday. Activision alleges that both West and Zampella were in talks with EA for almost eight months before being fired from IW, with the clandestine goal of creating a new studio of their own with talent stolen from IW. To eventually lure the IW faithful, West and Zampella went so far as to resist Activision's own attempts to reward IW staff with bonuses and incentives whenever appropriate, in order to breed discontent against the publisher amongst the ranks at IW.
Those are some pretty serious accusations already, but the publisher further alleges that the dangerous duo's next step was to sabotage the Call of Duty franchise itself while Activision still has a hold of it. IW would be encouraged to undermine the efforts of other Activision studios working on Call of Duty games in whatever way they could; one incident involving West and an anonymous IW staffer was cited as an example, where a Modern Warfare 2 trailer was released on the same day Treyarch launched a trailer for their own Call of Duty: World at War Map Pack DLC, in order to overshadow it.
All this time, West and Zampella had the backing of EA. Activision is convinced EA CEO John Riccitiello himself invited both IW co-founders to his own private residence to help spring their cunning plan into action. EA has much to gain as a result of helping sabotage both IW and Call of Duty, while delivering a "Call of Duty killer" of their own, Activision explains.
To this end, Activision is seeking $400 million USD from EA, West and Zampella to make up of any potential Call of Duty profit lost due to their alleged interference, plus the usual damages to "punish Electronic Arts and to deter similar conduct in the future." Activision wants to get back the money it paid both West and Zampella during "the period of their disloyalty", and of course prevent them from leveraging any confidential information garnered at Activision in their future products.
Updated: You didn't think EA would take any of that sitting down would you? In an email response to the LA Times yesterday night regarding this latest development, EA spokesperson Jeff Brown soundly rebukes Activision's accusations:
"This is a PR play filled with pettiness and deliberate misdirection. 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."