Amended Infinity Ward Lawsuit Details Activision's "Police State"

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Amended Infinity Ward Lawsuit Details Activision's "Police State"

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A lawsuit filed by Infinity Ward against Activision over hundreds of millions in unpaid bonuses was amended to further express the rough conditions faced by employees.

In case you didn't notice, there was a situation that occurred inside of Activision at its Infinity Ward studio that led to the departure of many IW employees to the newly formed Respawn Entertainment. Respawn founders and former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West are still embroiled in a lawsuit with Activision over a huge amount of unpaid royalties, as are more than three dozen other Infinity Ward employees. In the latest event surrounding this story, Kotaku obtained a recently amended version of the employees' lawsuit that details the alleged harsh work environment Activision created.

In the amendment, the suit talks about a "police state-like atmosphere" that drove Infinity Ward employees away. Before West and Zampella were fired by Activision, members of Infinity Ward were allegedly subjected to secret "interrogations" as security personnel manned the exits. 40% of the promised bonuses due to the sales of Modern Warfare 2 were paid out, but the suit says that the rest was withheld until Modern Warfare 3 was completed by a required deadline of November 2011.

Bobby Kotick even promised that the bonuses would be paid out around the same time, but it never happened according to the lawsuit. Notably, members of the lawsuit have lowered the ceiling of what they are asking to be paid by Activision from a maximum of $500 million to $216 million. That's still a lot of clams.

I can't imagine working on one of the most successful games of all time and then being forced to engage in "interrogations." The whole thing makes me wonder what the truth of this situation really is and why it had to occur, and I'm annoyed by the realization that we'll never really know. It's easiest to blame it on the greed of a major corporation, so maybe I'll just go with that and my head will stop hurting.

Source: Kotaku

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This is Bobby Kotick we're talking about. The man who said he wanted to "take all the fun out of making video games."

At this point it feels like Bobby Kotick is just some actor that Activision hired to direct all the ire and hate away from the REAL CEO who is actually making all these popular decisions. I mean the stuff he says and does is so blatantly stupid and arrogant.

Kotick or No Kotick, I would think that 'interrogations' are an exaggeration of the simple fact that Activision wants to know how progress is going over it's most profitable game franchise.

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

Am I the only one who thinks Activision's pantomime villain status is actually scary?

I'm reminded (as ever) of 1984, where a character remarks that "Books are just a commodity, to be produced much the same as everything else" (probably misquoted but it's 00:07, which also probably explains my rampant paranoia)

Basically Activision are the Wal-Mart of videogames, and its profits could turn it into a trendsetter.
Good luck to the people suing Activision but due to the way the legal system works (ie money wins) I think they may need it.

When you have a goose that lays golden eggs, you probably shouldn't subject it to interrogations or withhold it food until it lays another one.

You just keep feeding it and give it its space and it'll keep doing its thing.

Crayzor:
This is Bobby Kotick we're talking about. The man who said he wanted to "take all the fun out of making video games."

Yeah. I wouldn't be shocked if his office has a secret alter to worship Adolf Hitler and Stalin.

chemicalreaper:
Kotick or No Kotick, I would think that 'interrogations' are an exaggeration of the simple fact that Activision wants to know how progress is going over it's most profitable game franchise.

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

Police States often threaten families.

All of this is true. It's Activision and the CEO after all. I hope they get paid, all of them.

It's quite scary, they remind me of Josef Stalin all of the sudden. And that's a serious comparision, I admit that.

I'm actually inclined to believe Infinity Ward here. I don't doubt that Activision thought they could get away with all this stuff behind closed doors. I'm glad that West and Zampella were able to get out.

chemicalreaper:

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

Eh, it's a decent-paying job in an unstable economy. Many people will take what they can get. It might explain why all the higher-ups left but all the "grunts" in the company stayed behind.

I sometimes wonder if people like Bobbie Kotick and Tim Langdell sit around in a darkened room cackling and plotting the next way to ruin the world of gaming. Seriously, these guys need to knock it off...it's just becoming sad.

"The Infinity Ward staff sit in the room, panicking, their hair matted with sweat. They hear the thud of boots approaching down the hallway outside. The door opens to reveal Bobby Kotick wearing a black guard uniform.

'Room 101' Kotick says to one of the employees."

Am I the only one who got that impression from the whole "interrogation" thing?

chemicalreaper:

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

What if they're holding you several months back on pay and you can't afford to leave?

New jobs don't grow on trees and evidently Activision's behaviour came to a head when the constant 'we'll pay you after MW2 is finished' suddenly became 'we'll pay you after MW3 is finished', at which point those that could did exactly what you would expect them to do.

Given Kotick and Activision's reputation and behaviour over the last few years, not to mention West and Zampella having a pretty solid reputation within the developer world, as well the umpteen other employees launching similar suites, it's hard to see their accusations as anything other than the truth whilst Activision plays the 'what, me?' card.

chemicalreaper:
Kotick or No Kotick, I would think that 'interrogations' are an exaggeration of the simple fact that Activision wants to know how progress is going over it's most profitable game franchise.

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

Yeah, I don't buy this story for an instant. It's way too over dramatic. And as you say, common sense would just tell you to leave.

In during Activision hate.

Xzi:
At this point it feels like Bobby Kotick is just some actor that Activision hired to direct all the ire and hate away from the REAL CEO who is actually making all these popular decisions. I mean the stuff he says and does is so blatantly stupid and arrogant.

I concur.

Bobby Kotick is the Western version of Satan.

chemicalreaper:
Kotick or No Kotick, I would think that 'interrogations' are an exaggeration of the simple fact that Activision wants to know how progress is going over it's most profitable game franchise.

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

No because they want those royalties that have yet to be paid to them.

Adzma:

chemicalreaper:
Kotick or No Kotick, I would think that 'interrogations' are an exaggeration of the simple fact that Activision wants to know how progress is going over it's most profitable game franchise.

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

Yeah, I don't buy this story for an instant. It's way too over dramatic. And as you say, common sense would just tell you to leave.

If you left your job, would you be able to find another one before your bills start spiraling out of control?

Remember, you can't collect unemployment if you quit your job, only if you're fired or laid off.

This explains the somewhat shoddy presentation of MW2. I mean, if they are giving them a deadline for the next game, and withholding royalties for that, thenwhat must it have been like during MW2's development cycle?

Activision sucks, that's all there is to that.

Well, I have mixed opinions about all of this. On one hand I think some aspects of this are fundementally ridiculous to begin with. When we're dealing with a design team that is claiming that that expected to be handed hundreds of millions of dollars for creating a bloody video game... well, that's a ridiculous expectation. It gets to the heart of things that John Funk and myself periodically argue about back and forth about the greed of the industry and how much these guys are taking home, and what that says about the profits, and the high prices that we're seeing as consumers. For all arguements about how prices "haven't really raised in years", $60 is a decent chunk of change, one that they claim is needed because of the rising expenses in making games, but here we are seeing that one of those expenses are employees expecting hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.

HOWEVER despite how that might read, the bottom line is that within the cosm of the deal itself, if Bobby Kotick/Activision promised that money, the people who did the work have every right to receive it. The sheer ridiculous, staggering amount of money, being demanded by game coders (admittedly en masse) being an issue. If this is a bit differant from how it sounds and most of this money is going to only a handfull of people, well that's actually worse when it comes to the sheer insanity of the situation. Whether it's a couple hundred people walking away with a few hundred thousand dollars apiece, or a couple of guys collecting a couple hundred million apiece, the simple fact that anyone expects a payday like that for making video games is ridiculous.... especially seeing as the burden for covering those paydays falls on me, the consumer, after all in the end those paydays are covered by the price I'm being charged for the games.

As far as Bobby Kotick's attitude goes, I think it comes down to a corperate version of realpolitick which is actually respected by some (though not by us sheeplike consumers). It's just rare to see it used so openly in the media, though I get the impression that's something that "hip" big wigs are doing nowadays (sort of like some of Sony's "gaffs"). It's similar to the whole "I'm such a cool white guy, I can get away with calling black guys the 'N' word", which Howard Stern originated. The basic point being that Bobby Kotick is showing that he can act this way, but his product is so valued and needed by an "addicted" consumer base that it doesn't matter because he can sell games like "Modern Warfare" anyway.

To some extent I think it's a throwback to the 1980s "Mega-Corperation" mentality that spawned various "Dark Future" concepts, "Cyberpunk", and of course movies like "Wall Street" with it's famous "Greed is good" speech and what that meant in the context of the movie.

Interestingly we're already seeing closed corperate cultures, in a few places corperations can even act almost like private nations on their own property. Every once in a while you see a bit of news that has people saying "OMG, Cyberpunk 2020 (or Shadowrun) is here" if they are big enough nerds. Right now we have big companies forming Private Military Contractors as one of their many holdings. The next step is of course going to be when we see these groups being used more aggressively on the holdings of corperations in the third world (and to expand their influance) we see a bit of this already, but nothing all that overt. The real doomsday will be when say a corperation like Sony actually has the power to go to someplace like the UK, and declare it's own holdings old school San Francisco "Police Special" type districts and flagrantly violate the gun control laws of the rest of the nation while running their own internal court systems for employees complete with jails and the death penelty.... we're a long way from that, but you know what they say about baby steps, people talk about "Skynet" whenever someone does something cool with computers... well this one is actually closer though it's not happening as fast as some speculative fiction thought it would.

... the point of this rant is that Bobby Kotick is pretty much a sign of the times. Whether he falls eventually or not, the bottom line is that he's demonstrating his abillity to publically act like a cutthroat businessman with little or no respect for his employees or customers (other than what money they bring in) and still succeed at least for a time. The thing is I don't doubt his honesty in what he says and how he acts, it's just that the stuff he says is the kind of thing typically only said behind closed doors to other people in business with you in one way or another, hence the analogy to how Howard Stern has acted. He can be offensive and get away with it because he's Bobby Kotick, and even if hated people are STILL going to buy his products... and so far he's right. Looking at all the "Modern Warfare 2" addicts, when part 3 comes along does anyone think people are not going to buy it because of Bobby Kotick? The most you might hear is "I hate that guy, but I'm going to line his pockets anyway". Until that changes he's going to keep right on doing what he does.

double post

How does anyone know about the "secret" interrogations lol

I don't blame Acti for running it like a "police state". They have to keep thier secrets safe.

Just sounds to me like activision's networth suddenly increased tenfold and activision freaked the fuck out.

The problem with all corporate entities is they have no function beyond being corporate entities. They're machines. They exist only to maintain a level of reliability to the act of making money. But since on their own they produce nothing, provide no service, and solve no problems, their very existence is a contradiction. Its a deaf, dumb, blind, retarded quadruple amputee tasked with coaching his country to gold in the Olympics. All he can actually do is roll around and make disturbing noises.

Respawn founders and former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West are still embroiled in a lawsuit with Activision over a huge amount of unpaid royalties, as are more than three dozen other Infinity Ward employees.

Firstly for arguments sake and ease of working, lets say that more than 3 dozen = 50 employees.

Notably, members of the lawsuit have lowered the ceiling of what they are asking to be paid by Activision from a maximum of $500 million to $216 million. That's still a lot of clams.

Also for arguments sake and ease of working, lets round down that $216 million to $200 million.

Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but are these Infinity Ward employees expecting to get an average bonus of $4 million dollars each on top of their wages?

Apparently a large bonus was promised, but how can any business expect to retain employees if they give them bonuses of $4 million dollars each? I know that if I suddenly received 4 million dollars I wouldn't be going into work the next day...

Surely I must be missing something obvious, because regardless of promises and how much money the game made, that seems a hell of a lot of money for someone who makes video games to earn, and for Activation it seems a bit like 'they're dammed if they do, and dammed if they don't', because if they had paid the bonuses then Infinity Ward would have still disbanded when all the staff took early retirement as millionaires.

Not wishing to take sides, but I can certainly see why Activision would have wanted to get another Modern Warfare game out of the Infinity Ward staff before giving them so much money.

Some like to believe in the freedom of music

But glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity.

Rush, once again, has the answer.

Why is this news? I heard about this almost word for word on another site over a month ago?

Jamash:

Respawn founders and former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West are still embroiled in a lawsuit with Activision over a huge amount of unpaid royalties, as are more than three dozen other Infinity Ward employees.

Not wishing to take sides, but I can certainly see why Activision would have wanted to get another Modern Warfare game out of the Infinity Ward staff before giving them so much money.

If you saw just how well Modern Warfare 2 sold, and how well it was recieved globally, I'm pretty sure you'd understand.

I honestly don't know the exact number of royalties that IW employees were due. That is something that is specified within their contracts and will ultimately be up to the courts to decide I guess. However, having said that and all big words like 'interrogation' and 'corporate greed' aside, my own feeling on this is that it's probably far simpler than most think.

IW works for Activision. IW's members are known for making good games from before (MOH) and go about making another good series of games. Said series does pretty well with Modern Warfare 1 and then absolutely goes insane with Modern Warfare 2. The law agreements of the time state that IW employees are to be awarded huge bonuses should such an event happen and all other conditions are fulfilled.

For whatever reason Activision fails to uphold its end of the bargain in the eyes of pretty much most of IWs leadership (this I say due to the entire design team behind MW 2 leaving the company after the two heads). The exodus begins and the lawsuit is issued, with pretty much both sides blaming each other.

Now...something was *definately* done wrong by Activision. You do not lose something like 40 of your employees in one mass exodus unless you've made a mistake of truly epic proportions. But what that mistake was exactly, remains to be seen. It could've been simply a lack of communication with IW or it might've been every bit as horrid as the charges claim it to be. Frankly the courts will probably have to decide on this one in the end. It might not sound exactly the best solution, since Activision's legal team is probably paid gold bullion for their jobs, but then again it's not like the IW employees can't count on some side-help from EA lawyers as perhaps a favor for their new efforts as part of the new studio they've formed.

Either way...not enough is known as of yet. I for one would need more solid proof behind either side's claims before I can make up my mind about this.

Back in the 1990's, there was this big circle-j*rk between the game publishers and movie studios about how they were going to join forces, combine the technical expertise of the games industry with Hollywood's (alleged) storytelling ability to create amazing new kinds of entertainment.

I submit that the experiment was a success -- Activision has turned into a Hollywood studio, with floating break-evens and other forms of falsified accounting, sociopaths and ego maniacs in positions of power, and an overworked, abused rank-and-file.

If they're not very very careful, you might see a labor union for the video game industry within the next ten years.

It's news like this which remind me firmly that the video game market have ceased being an ethical consumer-focused collection of companies who do games out of love, and turned into a collection of financial-focused businesses out to make as much money as possible at all costs.

Honestly, Activision, personally, is up there with all the businesses that have ruined the gaming industry, turning it into a cold calculating business plan out to make money from it's more warm roots. You know, along with others like Zynga, EA and, recently, Blizzard.

chemicalreaper:
Kotick or No Kotick, I would think that 'interrogations' are an exaggeration of the simple fact that Activision wants to know how progress is going over it's most profitable game franchise.

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

As Crayzor already said:

Crayzor:
This is Bobby Kotick we're talking about. The man who said he wanted to "take all the fun out of making video games."

He also made a comment during the same speech that he was openly encouraging a corporate culture of "skepticism, pessimism, and fear".
So while "interrogation" more than likely a bit overly dramatic, that does fit the bill with the way they seem to want to run things.

Police-state seems like they're just being hyperbolic though.

activision has money. they promised to give some to infinity ward for doing well with modern warfare 2... infinity ward got pissed of that they didn't get there money, its like saying,"want a pretzel?" after a response of "yes please" you say well im gonna eat them and you can't have them until you do something cooler than making one of the biggest game juggernauts in recorded history.

Anyone with a rational head on their shoulders knows that in a two sided debate the truth...is nearly always right down the middle.

squid5580:
How does anyone know about the "secret" interrogations lol

I don't blame Acti for running it like a "police state". They have to keep thier secrets safe.

what secrets? their formula to an fps game? because its gun + enemy + no thought = fun.

chemicalreaper:
Kotick or No Kotick, I would think that 'interrogations' are an exaggeration of the simple fact that Activision wants to know how progress is going over it's most profitable game franchise.

After all, if Activision was actually running such a 'police state-like' environment, don't you think that Infinity Ward employees -- or anyone else working for Activision -- would have left quite a long time ago?

Maybe, but statements like

"to take all the fun out of making video games." How? By instilling a culture of "skepticism, pessimism, and fear" amongst the company's staff based around the economic depression and an incentive program that rewards "profit and nothing else".

don't help. It is paraphrased but that did come from Bobby himself.

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