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Infinity Ward fires back at Activision. A unique angle on the ongoing drama

kamspy
03-04-2010, 03:45 PM
Sorry if you think a new thread isn't necessary but imo everyone needs to read this and the other thread is too big. The summary thanks to Articate:

These allegations do not prove Activision is guilty in any way. It is the Plaintiff's side and is a document meant to give them a good case.

but
-Here's the summary of the court document: -
(quotation are straight from the document - and my wording meant to be only reflecting what the document said, nothing more or less)

They alledge that Activision had "shoestringed" them budget-wise to buy them for a total of 1.5 (30% first), 3.5 (remaining 70%) - 6 million dollars for a franchise that earned them according to Activision itself, 3$ billion. At this point, Activision and Kotick told them to "keep doing what they do" to "retain the magic of their creations", as in basically work as if they hadn't been bought by Activision. West and Zampella became the co-heads of IW and were hired under Activision for a 3 year contract, with two supplement years afterwards, ending late 2008. Then Activision wanted them to make MW2, but W and Z weren't sure. Activision then assured them to work as an independent studio, but had already begun to intrude by "[...] for example, Activision forced IW's employees to continue producing the games at a break neck pace under aggressive schedules, and W and Z were concerned that Activision was emphasizing quantity over quality." Forcing them to work only on MW also was a creative concern, burning out employees only working on the same type of game instead of the studio coming up with new titles. Activision was making billions of dollars and IW were "[...] not being provided a fair share".

Due to this a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) was signed by Activision; and W and Z. (these documents are not publically available) - now W and Z were signed until October 2011 and to deliver MW2 by November 15, 2009.

The MOU and an "Employment Agreement" made, promises W and Z creative authority over development under the MW brand or any Call of Duty game set in the post- Vietnam era, the near future or the distant future, including complete control over IW. The MOU also says that no such games can be released without the written consent of W and Z. The MOU also assured IW and W and Z more money via stock options and royalties for any CoD game and tech royalties for Activision games making significant use of IW technology (like IW's engine being used in other games, which has happened earlier [no examples listed]). This to ensure more money also to the hard-working employees.

They lived up to their end of the deal with finishing MW2 five days before deadline, Kotick then touted MW2 as the largest release for Activision ever, exceeding 1$ billion in five days, with 3$ billion to-date.

After this Activision chose "[...] not to honor the MOU or the Employment Agreement with W and Z. Activision chose instead, to launch a pre-textual investigation against W and Z to create a basis to fire two co-heads of IW before the first MW2 royalty payment would be paid on March 31, 2010," starting February 3, 2010. "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 W and Z." strengthened by Activision refusing to tell what it was all about, insisting instead in "[...] Orwellian fashion that W and Z 'already have a clear understanding of what they have or have not done.'", only hearing such things as "[...]"breaches of contract" or "violation of Activision's policies" and said that if they asked more, it would be considered insubordination, which itself would justify their termination"

"Activision conducted the investigation in a manner designed to maximize the inconvenience and anxiety it would cause W and Z. On little notice, Activision insisted on conducting interviews over the Presidents' Day holiday weekend; W and Z were interrogated for over six hours in a windowless conference room; Activision brought other IW employees to tears in their questioning and accusations and threatened W and Z with "insubordination" if they attempted to console them; Activision's outside counsel demanded that W and Z surrender their personal computers, phones and communication devoices to Activision for review by Activision's outside counsel and, when W and Z asserted their legally protected privacy rights, Activision's counsel said that doing so constituted further acts of insubordination."

After it was over, it was clear that the investigation was was a charade, by the charges being dispored or not included in the investigation, showing Activision only wanting to fire them to refuse to pay what they've earned. They were given 6 hours to disprove themselves, without interview scripts or clear allegations. It was seemingly also futile, since Activision already had made up its mind.

Despite the MOU, Activision filed on March 1st personel plans to assert complete control over the MW brand and the IW Studio.

They are suing for $36 million due to:
1.) Breach of Contract,
by Activision not living up to their end of the MOU or Employee Agreement, refusing to pay what they said they would, despite IW living up to their side.

2.) Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing,
Refusing to pay, assuming control over the franchise despite MOU, and by firing them without probable cause made in bad faith.

3.) Wrongful Termination

4.) Declatory Relief
Suing for control of the MW brand and that Activision cannot release another MW game or Cod game set post-Vietnam era, near future or distant future without the written consent of W and Z
and sues for all royalties not yet paid and all future royalties under the MOU and Employee Agreement




tl;dr:
West and Zampella wanted Infinity Ward to an independent studio, but Activision gave them what they needed to continue working under them - a contracted right to royalties for the MW games and tech royalties for any technology used from IW. Activision allegedly did not want to live up to this by making a phony investigation, making employees cry, threatening to fire W and Z if they tried to console them.

Wow that's a lot of Legalese. Okay, in case anyone doesn't feel like reading all that stuff:

WHAT HAPPENED: The two developers were promised royalties as part of their contract for Modern Warfare 2. They're claiming Activision fired them under false pretenses in order to avoid paying those royalties.

The lawsuit then gives background about the company, including alleging that Activision purposely gave Infinity Ward a small budget for Call of Duty in order to buy 30% of its stock for cheap since the small budget would keep them from fighting it.

It also states some things we all know; sales figures, revenue numbers, etc. West and Zampella (the two developers and plaintiffs) had only one year on their contract before MW2 started. They were reluctant to get an extension on their contract, but did so anyway because Activision promised complete control of IW AND creative control over any post-Vietnam Call of Duty and MW games that might be developed.

Blah, blah, blah; more sales figures and talks of how MW2 was praised upon release. Activision then launched the investigation of Zampella and West about a week after the release of MW2. They hired outside lawyers and investigators to question other employees (some of whom cried from anxiety) and threatened insubordination charges if the two plaintiffs tried to console the other employees.

West and Zampella then said they were going to talk to their lawyers, at which point they were told Activision would make things worse if they did. The two men were also never told what exactly they had done wrong at any given point during the investigation. Activision strung the investigation along, then gave the two IW guys about six hours to respond to the accusations. A couple days later, Activision announced the new Call of Duty games they want to make (which were posted in another article).

WHAT THEY WANT: The first claim is to about US$36 million in damages. Second, they also want control of the Modern Warfare franchise back, since that was what was promised. Third, they also say Activision cannot make any further MW games OR post-Vietnam Call of Duties set in the present, near future, or far future. Fourth, they feel that Activision owes them their royalties and bonuses regardless of whether or not their termination from IW was legitimate. And obviously, they want their attorney fees covered.

And that's about it. I may have misread the complaint a bit, so feel free to correct me

Another summary:



the documents:
http://kotaku.com/5485703/ousted-infinity-ward-founders-lawsuit-against-activision-the-court-documents/gallery/#

A small but very interesting part from these documents (thanks to D4Danger)

http://i45.tinypic.com/2eqe89g.jpg


Disgusting... absolutely disgusting...


Posted be a dude on GAF.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=389279

Read the whole thread. It's best gaming related reading I've done since the Xbox book.

For perspective, NeoGAF member "lawblob" is actually a lawyer, so read his posts twice. There are also a few lower level IW members in the thread, but I'm not giving out their user names. Connect the dots. They don't go out and say it in that thread (I think one has an IW related tag though), but if you follow it you'll figure out who's who. Biggest gaming thread I've seen on GAF in years. Almost every industry person who's screen name I know has weighed in.


Amazing reading. Never buying another Activision game again. Not even StarCraft II or Diablo III. (I will play them though.:p)


This has to be among the biggest fuckings in the gaming industry's short history.

Fuck Blizzard. Fuck Activision.

(Blizzard owns 52% of Activision, so they could stop this)

Pinoy
03-04-2010, 04:09 PM
This just confirms what we already know; Activision/Mr. Kotick are complete assholes.

I'll be back later. I'm off to find a pirated copy of every Activision game ever made. I think I'm gonna distribute them freely.

MikeRox
03-04-2010, 04:33 PM
Confirms my belief that IW weren't to blame for the glitches and issues that slipped out with MW2, but that it was infact a decision from above.

Very shocking stuff, looks like Activision are on the hunt to sew up Modern Warfare and IW up without shelling out what they know the developer are actually worth. Very easy for me to ignore Activision releases. The last game they put out that I "needed" to play was Guitar Hero 2. Once they booted Harmonix off the franchise I lost all interest (was a similar thing there I think, cheaper for em to get the brand name buying Red Octane, and putting their own devs on the game, than letting the people who actually made Guitar Hero the fantastic product it was continue with the series).

Does acquiring/screwing around developers then running them into the ground not remind anyone else of the EA from a decade ago when they were killing companies like Westwood and Bullfrog?

kamspy
03-04-2010, 04:43 PM
IW didn't even want to make MW2 mid-way through development. That's why it never got a proper fix. Probably explains a lot about the game's criticisms (poor pc support etc.).\

I'll follow ex-IW where ever they end up, and I'm not giving Acti another dime.

Blizzard could and should step in. The last shred of respect I have for Mike Morhaime hinges on an outraged response. Make no mistake, Mike Morhaime owns Activision. He could tell Bobby Kotick to go mop the bathroom and get "Yes Sir!" as a reply.

awol
03-04-2010, 04:49 PM
Blizzard could and should step in. The last shred of respect I have for Mike Morhaime hinges on an outraged response. Make no mistake, Mike Morhaime owns Activision. He could tell Bobby Kotick to go mop the bathroom and get "Yes Sir!" as a reply.

I doubt Blizzard will do anything. Money is the all important decision maker.

Plus, we still don't know exactly what all happened yet. Just because a lawyer is saying "this is what happened" doesn't make it so. The legal battle is going to be very interesting to say the least.

eiger
03-04-2010, 04:52 PM
Activision = Some of the biggest scumbags ever.

Let's hope Ubisoft doesn't follow suit. I have alot of respect for them, but will start to lose it eventually.

MikeRox
03-04-2010, 04:56 PM
Don't think Ubi will get like that. They promote a lot of more niche games, Activision don't do Niche... their current business model is a clone of EA's from the PS1/early PS2 days.

kamspy
03-04-2010, 05:04 PM
I doubt Blizzard will do anything. Money is the all important decision maker.

Plus, we still don't know exactly what all happened yet. Just because a lawyer is saying "this is what happened" doesn't make it so. The legal battle is going to be very interesting to say the least.

This started the week of MW2s release. Activision just let go of Neversoft because they already had the recipe for Guitar Hero.

They were simply trying to do the same here. I think their business model supports IWs claim.

Have you seen what community made mods can come out looking like? With just a handful of people working on them in spare time? Acti knows they can plug 100 staffers for 8 months with the basic COD engine and mod tools to make a new campaign and some new MP maps. They figure it's not rocket science, but they'll be proven wrong. It won't be this year or the next, but eventually people will tire of playing COD2 over and over again.

kamspy
03-04-2010, 05:06 PM
Don't think Ubi will get like that. They promote a lot of more niche games, Activision don't do Niche... their current business model is a clone of EA's from the PS1/early PS2 days.

EA could have dumped Tiburon once they got the Madden formula. I can't recall them every doing something this unethical.

awol
03-04-2010, 05:14 PM
This started the week of MW2s release. Activision just let go of Neversoft because they already had the recipe for Guitar Hero.

They were simply trying to do the same here. I think their business model supports IWs claim.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not disagreeing with the idea (or fact) that Bobby KoDick is exactly as his name sounds. Or that they're not just getting rid of the people they were supposed to pay the most for their ideas. But while I don't trust Activision, I also don't trust lawyers. We still don't know yet if there was some shady shit on behalf of the two in question.

KEEBS1984
03-04-2010, 05:22 PM
Fuck Blizzard. Fuck Activision.

(Blizzard owns 52% of Activision, so they could stop this)

Hold on, hold on, hold on. When I first read about this I read that VIVENDI UNIVERSAL would be a 52% stakeholder. Vivendi just happens to be the owner of Blizzard.

Blizzard is just a dev house within this new company and they don't own anybody.

The reason why the new name of the company is Activision Blizzard is because Vivendi wanted to leverage the name of their prize developer in the new mega-publisher as opposed to using Activision-Vivendi.

Look it even shows t in the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activision_Blizzard

To Activision-Blizzard, Blizzard is just another dev house. I'd be surprised if something similar didn't happen there in the months to come.

kamspy
03-04-2010, 05:51 PM
First off, the wiki isn't correct. Blizzard owned controlling share in Vivendi when the merger happened. Vivendi ended up with 52% and decided to use the Activision banner. Don't be mistaken, modern day ActiBlizz is the house that Bobby built, but Mike picked up the check and sat there eating instead of making sure Bobby wasn't in the back yard making the laborers polish his knob. No one has more power over what Activision does than Mike Morhaime. He just never bothers to use it to help his peers.


Keebs, for one, Blizzard already left. All that remains is a head to stubborn to let go when the body has already died. Everyone already left. They've been gone. Runic, Ready at Dawn, etc.

Now it's just Mike and his pile of uncle scrooge money. They get a pass on most gaming forums because at least a few dozen of the core members are psychologically dependent to WoW.

The people who made StarCraft no longer work there.

The people who made Diablo no longer work there.

The people who made Warcraft no longer work there.


So this is Mike's one chance at any kind of redemption in the eyes of the games not yet indoctrinated. They're like Pavlov's dogs at the site of an colorful armor clad orc.

railven
03-04-2010, 06:04 PM
Hold on, hold on, hold on. When I first read about this I read that VIVENDI UNIVERSAL would be a 52% stakeholder. Vivendi just happens to be the owner of Blizzard.

Blizzard is just a dev house within this new company and they don't own anybody.

The reason why the new name of the company is Activision Blizzard is because Vivendi wanted to leverage the name of their prize developer in the new mega-publisher as opposed to using Activision-Vivendi.

Look it even shows t in the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activision_Blizzard

To Activision-Blizzard, Blizzard is just another dev house. I'd be surprised if something similar didn't happen there in the months to come.

Blizzard is more than just a dev house. They are still a publishing outfit.

But you're still right, in the house of cards, Blizzard side and Activision side have no connection except some executives and a joint name. Blizzard couldn't stop or prevent any of this from happening and I'd wager it's all Kotick's doing to maximize his own profits (remember the cool almost 20 mil he made selling his stock options.)

KEEBS1984
03-04-2010, 06:50 PM
First off, the wiki isn't correct. Blizzard owned controlling share in Vivendi when the merger happened. Vivendi ended up with 52% and decided to use the Activision banner. Don't be mistaken, modern day ActiBlizz is the house that Bobby built, but Mike picked up the check and sat there eating instead of making sure Bobby wasn't in the back yard making the laborers polish his knob. No one has more power over what Activision does than Mike Morhaime. He just never bothers to use it to help his peers.


Keebs, for one, Blizzard already left. All that remains is a head to stubborn to let go when the body has already died. Everyone already left. They've been gone. Runic, Ready at Dawn, etc.

Now it's just Mike and his pile of uncle scrooge money. They get a pass on most gaming forums because at least a few dozen of the core members are psychologically dependent to WoW.

The people who made StarCraft no longer work there.

The people who made Diablo no longer work there.

The people who made Warcraft no longer work there.


So this is Mike's one chance at any kind of redemption in the eyes of the games not yet indoctrinated. They're like Pavlov's dogs at the site of an colorful armor clad orc.

I'm sorry Kam but I just don't see it as cut and dry like that. Mike Morhaime is neither the President of Activision nor the CEO of Activision. He probably has absolutely 0 say in legal matters, or over-arching business decisions within the company.

Blizzard never owned any part of Vivendi. Vivendi owned Blizzard. Blizz was sold to Havas in 1998 who was bought by Vivendi that same year. At no time did Blizzard own a piece of Vivendi.

I'm, by no means, saying Activision Blizzard is a good company. In fact, I'm fairly certain they are completely guilty in this matter. But I'd refrain from throwing Blizzards name in the mud when they don't really have any control in this at all. I'd be surprised if Blizzard and Infinity Ward ever had any official dealing with eachother.

kamspy
03-04-2010, 07:07 PM
Leverage Keebs, leverage. Blizzard owns the rights to their IPs. They have a bargaining chip that would put every single one of Acti's stockholders on their knees (literally).

So, in the tangible real world (not the one on paper), Blizzard owns Activision outright.

And Vivendi SA (big french media conglomerate) owns 54% of ActiBlizzard. But guess what? Blizzard bailed them out too. They set a record for corporate losses in the EU in 2003, then ActiBlizzard revenue was the contributing factor to them staying afloat.


So telling me that Blizzard couldn't leverage a mere $36m out of Activision and Vivendi? pfft. That's barely two weeks of WoW subs.

railven
03-04-2010, 07:45 PM
Leverage Keebs, leverage. Blizzard owns the rights to their IPs. They have a bargaining chip that would put every single one of Acti's stockholders on their knees (literally).

So, in the tangible real world (not the one on paper), Blizzard owns Activision outright.

And Vivendi SA (big french media conglomerate) owns 54% of ActiBlizzard. But guess what? Blizzard bailed them out too. They set a record for corporate losses in the EU in 2003, then ActiBlizzard revenue was the contributing factor to them staying afloat.


So telling me that Blizzard couldn't leverage a mere $36m out of Activision and Vivendi? pfft. That's barely two weeks of WoW subs.

Seriously Kams you got to stop arguing fiction and stick to the facts. You're assuming because of Blizzard's man power (by which I mean presence) they can dictate how Activision is run?

Blizzard and Activision are two separate units under one banner. Next you'll argue SCEI can tell Sony Films what movies to green light. I'm sure if any mishap would happen under the Blizzard Banner, Mike would step up, but frankly why would he care what happens on the other side of the wall. It isn't his devs/studios being affected.

railven
03-04-2010, 07:58 PM
Keebs, for one, Blizzard already left. All that remains is a head to stubborn to let go when the body has already died. Everyone already left. They've been gone. Runic, Ready at Dawn, etc.

You need to word this better. You're implying these studios were under the Blizzard Banner.

They never were a part of Blizzard. So stop spreading inaccurate information.

Former Blizzard employees went on to start these dev studios, but none of the work under these new studios was ever part of Blizzard nor ever published by Blizzard.

kamspy
03-04-2010, 08:08 PM
Yeah, I'm done derailing my own thread.:p

I made the Blizzard deal a bit bigger than it is. But a metaphor for the way I feel about the situation is "Blizzard as a cop watching their pal from school get robbed and does nothing about it."

How many AAA world famous game developers are there? Especially in the same company? It's a small fraternity. I really doubt they're not friends. Gaming is a fragile industry right now and I'd like to see people support each other with more than just words. Bethesda made it happen for Obsidian. Crytek helped Free Radical.

This topic should provoke debate for the way we look at authorship rights and residual income in the gaming industry. I bring up Mike because he's in a unique position to push for the sort of thing (owns schematics for money printing device, the billions version) and the opportunity has presented itself.

What's funny is I'm in complete agreement with you guys and that's my whole point. They aren't controlling anything, they could be.

They are choosing not to help. At least not yet. But apparently this gestapo thing has been going on since November. No wonder we couldn't get any support after launch. :duh:

kamspy
03-04-2010, 08:29 PM
You need to word this better. You're implying these studios were under the Blizzard Banner.

They never were a part of Blizzard. So stop spreading inaccurate information.

Former Blizzard employees went on to start these dev studios, but none of the work under these new studios was ever part of Blizzard nor ever published by Blizzard.

That's not what I'm implying at all. I'm just saying the blue collar developer base at Blizzard circa StarCraft and Warcraft 2 has long since moved on. I've always wondered why. Only the top divas remain.

KEEBS1984
03-04-2010, 09:19 PM
Yeah, I'm done derailing my own thread.:p

I made the Blizzard deal a bit bigger than it is. But a metaphor for the way I feel about the situation is "Blizzard as a cop watching their pal from school get robbed and does nothing about it."

How many AAA world famous game developers are there? Especially in the same company? It's a small fraternity. I really doubt they're not friends. Gaming is a fragile industry right now and I'd like to see people support each other with more than just words. Bethesda made it happen for Obsidian. Crytek helped Free Radical.

This topic should provoke debate for the way we look at authorship rights and residual income in the gaming industry. I bring up Mike because he's in a unique position to push for the sort of thing (owns schematics for money printing device, the billions version) and the opportunity has presented itself.

What's funny is I'm in complete agreement with you guys and that's my whole point. They aren't controlling anything, they could be.

They are choosing not to help. At least not yet. But apparently this gestapo thing has been going on since November. No wonder we couldn't get any support after launch. :duh:

Well we also have to remember that this all just happened... like yesterday. If Mike were to do something he certainly isn't gonna do it in a single day since this broke news. This lawsuit is going to go on for months so maybe he'll step up and offer some leadership advice in the negotiations between the publisher and developers.

I doubt we'll ever find out if anything happens, but I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt. :o

kamspy
03-04-2010, 10:14 PM
It started the week MW2 released bro. Mike is the CEO of Blizzard. I'm quite sure he got the email.

It's we who are just finding out. But I'm still with ya! Hopefully this public exposure will help guide his hand. His bargaining chip could be used to do so much good for the industry. No one has ever had that kind of unique ownership of an IP in the entertainment industry that generated so much cash. He's got the money to do what people always thought George Lucas would do, buck the corporation and push super sized indie stuff to the masses. First step for the gaming industry is to publicly tame this beast. The precedent would be deafening.

Valve I guess but they don't make many games, and the ones they do make are pretty inexpensive and don't have sub fees. TF2 and L4D subs are free.:D;)

sufs
03-05-2010, 12:24 AM
Disgusting I too am done with Activision. I think they kill every franchise they get their hands on. They milk the realeases until everyone gets sick of the franchise. Look no further then Tony Hawk, Guitar Hero and soon Call of Duty. I'd love it if W and Z got back control of COD would be awesome to have a three year development timeline for one game by these guys

kamspy
03-05-2010, 02:51 AM
These are the same people who ignited the Medal of Honor franchise originally. Everyone said the same thing when they left EA. But they didn't need the existing IP to be successful. They have a simple yet proven recipe. 60fps and vsync at all times on consoles. It's not a selling point you'd put on the box, and most COD players would have no idea what you were talking about if you said those words, but that's why it's so popular. Fidelity. It's taken for granted this gen.

Activision will lose sight of this simple principle and end up hiring a hack studio that will butcher it down to 30 fps so they can add shitty console prebaked shaders and maybe some heavy motion blur.

Former IW moves on and takes their fan base along with them again and hopefully returns to form. COD4 is one of the finest games ever made. It's now obvious that they were not exactly thrilled about making MW2 so that explains some of it's glaring deficiencies. Yet they delivered a game that grossed ActiBlizzard 3 Billion Dollars in less than 6 months. What's even more laughable is they're doing this mainly to avoid paying a tiny $36 million dollar bonus. EA just paid $900 million for Bioware and Pandemic. I'm sure they'd be glad to pony up $36 million to Infinity Ward (though they'd have to use a different name).

Pinoy
03-05-2010, 03:06 AM
Eh, I couldn't care less about who owns/controls/bosses who around... I just don't like seeing people not get paid for their work.