Call of Duty Litigation Ops: Activision Blizzard pays Infinity Ward staffers $42 million in owed royalties in “cynical attempt to look good”

Let it never be said that Activision Blizzard aren’t gracious and compassionate corporate overlords. Activision loves its employees! Vince Zampella and Jason West, former heads of Call of Duty creators Infinity Ward, were the bad guys and deserved to be fired and carried off the premises by security after they were so impudent as to talk to EA! How good is Activision? Why it’s agreed to pay Infinity Ward staffers $42 million in owed royalties for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 nearly three years after the game’s release.

Of course, the crew of 38 staff members known as the “Infinity Ward Employee Group” had to sue Activision to get the money they were owed. Even with that payment in place, there’s no guarantee that Activision will ever pay Respawn’s founders Zampella and West.

Polygon reported on Monday evening that a source close to the case between Activision and the Employee Group said that prior to going to trial Activision made a sudden payment of $42 million to the group. The group’s lawyer Bruce Isaacs confirmed that Activision had made the payment, which includes the $22 million first quarter launch bonus originally promised to the studio in its contract as well as 10 percent interest on that fee. Neither he nor the Infinity Ward Employee Group is satisfied by the payment however. “I can confirm for you that it happened today. I can also tell you that although it is a meaningful payment it is only a small portion of what we are seeking in litigation,” said Isaacs, “It is outrageous that they made us wait, they obviously knew they owed the money and this just shows that they breached the contract.”

$42 million is indeed just a fraction of what Modern Warfare 2 earned Activision. The game, released in November 2009, topped $1 billion in sales by January 2010. Former Lead Designer Todd Alderman and former Lead Software Engineer Frank Gigliotti of Infinity Ward are both members of the Infinity Ward Employee Group that formed to sue Activision for owed royalties in 2010. Isaacs estimated at the time that the group was owed between $75 million and $125 million by the publisher.

Activision did not make this payment as a settlement to the lawsuit. It made this payment in what Isaacs called a “cynical attempt to look good before the jury trial.” The trial in question is the one that will settle the aforementioned dispute between Zampella and West against Activision. The publisher is said to have made its payment to the Employee Group after completing its pre-trial discovery process leading up to that case and finding that Zampella/West’s lawsuit didn’t have any additional implications on the other case.

Given how classy Activision Blizzard is, it’s hard not to wonder whether studio Treyarch, the makers of the best-selling Call of Duty game Call of Duty: Black Ops, is receiving fair compensation for their efforts. If Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 breaks sales records this November, what does Treyarch get? A fat bonus? A firm pat on the head? Or are they just put to work immediately on Call of Duty: Black Ops 3?

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: