When the parents of one of the most successful video game franchises ever were fired from Activision earlier this week with very little explanation, you had to know there would be more to the story. And there is. On Thursday, deposed Infinity Ward CEO Vince Zampella and president Jason West unleashed a legal barrage on Activision, claiming that they were unfairly ousted to avoid paying the royalties that were due to them
In their formal legal complaint, the duo allege that Activision subjected them to a virtual witch hunt under allegations they never fully understood, including a six-hour interrogation in a windowless room. “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 West and Zampella,” the complaint states.
As for the insubordination Activision formally pinned on them in its SEC filing, Zampella and West claim Activision used the term to be almost all encompassing. When other employees were interrogated to the point of tears, consoling them was considered insubordination, and when Activision requested they turn over computers and cell phones, asserting their right to privacy and retaining them was considering insubordination.
Why the abuse? According to Zampella and West, it was simple greed. Because the two were due to begin receiving royalties for Modern Warfare 2 on March 31, they claim Activision sought an excuse to fire them simply so it didn’t have to pay them. Together, they’re suing for $36 million, along with future royalties, legal fees, and creative control over the Call of Duty brand – which they claim was promised to them in a memorandum of understanding signed with Activision in 2008.
“We poured our heart and soul into that company, building not only a world-class development studio but assembling a team we’ve been proud to work with for nearly a decade,” Zampella said. “After all we have given to Activision, we shouldn’t have to sue to get paid.”
In response, Activision claims much of the credit for getting Infinity Ward off the ground, and alleges genuine misconduct on the behalf of West and Zampella. “Over eight years, Activision shareholders provided these executives with the capital they needed to start Infinity Ward, as well as the financial support, resources, and creative independence that helped them flourish and achieve enormous professional success and personal wealth,” it said in a statement. “While the company showed enormous patience, it firmly believes that its decision was justified based on their course of conduct and actions.”