Activision: Modern Warfare 3 Being Held Hostage

Perhaps borrowing a phrase that’s frequently been used over the past few weeks by the gaming press to describe the currently rumored situation at Infinity Ward in which employees have made claims that they have been “held hostage” by Activision’s refusal to pay royalties for Modern Warfare 2, the company has claimed that Modern Warfare 3‘s development was held hostage by Jason West and Vince Zampella, the recently-fired heads of Infinity Ward.

In a counter-suit filed last week against one already issued by West and Zampella, Activision claimed that the pair were “holding future editions of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise hostage unless Activision acceded to their demands.”

This wording is interesting to note given West and Zampella’s claim that they essentially agreed to create Modern Warfare 2 on the basis that they would then be able to develop a new IP afterwards and would hold sole rights to any Call of Duty games based after the Vietnam War. Obviously, this indicates that Activision believes they have the right to develop new Modern Warfare games with or without West and Zampella, and should make for an interesting set of circumstances as the lawsuits continue to push towards an inevitable collision. What is the true story here? Who has the right to create Modern Warfare games?

It’s clear that Infinity Ward is the winner in the battle for public sympathy. Gamers see Activision as a greedy corporation that sought a way to fire West and Zampella in an attempt to wrest control of Modern Warfare, one of the most profitable gaming franchises of all time, from the pair and Infinity Ward, the company they founded. In addition, West and Zampella’s claims that they had been withheld royalties for Modern Warfare 2 and that they had suffered through an “inquisition” in which they were subjected to six-hour interrogations that reduced colleagues to tears didn’t help Activision.

However, Activision’s counter-suit paints West and Zampella in a different light. According to Activision, the pair embarked “on a secret trip by private jet to Northern California, arranged by their Hollywood agent, to meet with the most senior executives of Activision’s closest competitor.”

Furthermore, Activision claimed that they were “delaying pre-production of Modern Warfare 3 and attempting to use that delay as leverage in their negotiations.” Activision also claimed that West and Zampella caused the employees at Infinity Ward to suffer, saying that West and Zampella were preventing their colleagues from receiving royalties so that Activision would look bad, making employees, according to Activision, “easier to poach” in their attempts to start a new company.

In addition, Activision stated that West and Zampella allegedly took “1/3 of the total bonus pool for the Call of Duty franchise.”

Finally, Activision indicated that their contract with West and Zampella included a clause that prevented the pair from being able to solicit Activision employees for two years following termination, which Activision claims West and Zampella violated following their dismissal.

Experts speaking to Kotaku told the news source that West and Zampella’s lawsuit was filled with lots of words intended to shock and awe, and likewise, Activision’s may indeed hold the same premises. It’s obvious to see that parts of the lawsuit are directed at current Infinity Ward employees with specific mentions about West and Zampella’s alleged greed.

It’s hard to know who’s right and who’s wrong here as things just get more messy in this huge confrontation.