The formal court filing on the Activision/Infinity Ward debacle has hit the internet, and it’s a doozy.
In case you’ve been living under a rock on the dark side of the moon (of Endor) for the past few days, there’s been some crazy sh*t going down at Infinity Ward this week. While Activision’s response to the lawsuit filed by former Infinity Ward heads Vince Zampella and Jason West described the suit as “meritless,” and said that the company was disappointed in the suit and the duo’s actions that had been in violation of contract, Zampella and West have some complaints of their own. No, scratch that – they have lots of complaints of their own.
The court documents filed on behalf of West and Zampella have been spreading across the internet (Joystiq has them helpfully all in one gallery), and the allegations contained therein are pretty heavy. According to these documents, West and Zampella had been growing fed up with the “astonishing arrogance and unbridled greed” of their parent company and publisher for quite some time before Modern Warfare 2.
The filing accuses Activision of purposefully manufacturing trumped-up charges against the two (including accusations that West and Zampella were breaching contract by talking to other publishers), and behaving in an “Orwellian” manner when sending its legal team after them. Among other things, the papers claim that West and Zampella were interrogated for hours in a windowless room, that the investigation techniques were maximized to induce psychological stress on the pair, and that the investigators reduced IW employees “to tears” on occasion.
Like I said, it’s pretty serious stuff. In the end, the papers state that Activision purposefully manufactured a reason to fire West and Zampella before they would have to pay them their sizable bonuses for delivering the wildly successful Modern Warfare 2 as contracted.
Since reading the document, two things have become clear: It’s written in a very, very readable way, with over-the-top language that seems almost unprofessional in a court environment – I have no doubt that this was intended to be published and read by an audience, and to help turn public sentiment against the defendants. This doesn’t necessarily mean that any the claims therein are false; it just means that West and Zampella (and their attorneys) are well aware of what having an outraged fanbase calling for Activision blood will do as far as encouraging the publisher to possibly settle out of court.
The other thing that’s clear is that this entire case may well rest on the “Memorandum of Understanding,” or MOU – an agreement between the two IW heads and Activision that granted Zampella and West full creative rights over the Modern Warfare series, and the rights to have full veto power over any Call of Duty set “post-Vietnam.” This might be the crux of the entire case; paying West and Zampella the $36 million they’re asking for would be chump change for Activision if it meant it got to keep the Modern Warfare brand name.
Either way, it’s a very interesting read. Like I said before, it’s tempting to automatically side with West and Zampella here because A.) people love to hate Activision, B.) they’re the little guys, and C.) they present a compelling and unfortunate scenario. But I need to stress that this is only one side of the story, and blindly calling for the heads of either the plaintiffs or the defendants before we know all the facts is foolishness at its best. We’ll be able to judge more thoroughly once we know the whole story – and that’s what a court is for.
Personally, I think Activision should just hire Phoenix Wright. He’d have Jason West and Vince Zampella found guilty of murder, like, within a week.