The ongoing legal battle between Activision Blizzard and former members of Call of Duty creators Infinity Wars Vincent Zampella, Jason West, and the Infinity Ward Employee Group has had remarkable unintended consequences according to a Monday report in the Los Angeles Times. As a result of the case, the details of Activision Blizzard’s contract with Halo creators Bungie have been made public.
Activision signed Bungie to a 10-year exclusivity deal in April 2010, locking in the studio behind Halo and Marathon as the architects of the publisher’s next big shooter franchise. In February 2011, a rumor popped up claiming that Bungie’s project would be a science fiction MMO named Destiny. Bungie confirmed later that month at the Game Developers Conference that it was developing a “massively multiplayer action game” for Activision. Bungie’s lead network engineer David Aldridge described the game as “WoW in space.”
All of those rumors turned out to be true according to contract details outlined by the LA Times. The 27-page contract says that Bungie will produce four “sci-fantasy, action shooter games” that are in fact codenamed “Destiny.” They will be released every other year starting in the fall of 2013. It will also produce four downloadable expansions for “Destiny” codenamed “Comet” every other year staggered with the core releases.
In addition to “Destiny,” Bungie is also allowed to devote as much as 5% of its staff to create a new shooter prototype the contract calls Marathon while the 10-year deal with Activision is in effect. Looks like Bungie will be able to return to the series that started it all!
What does Bungie get in return for its games? Royalties between 20% and 35% of “operating income,” the money left over from Activision’s costs incurred during the development and release of the games. Activison is also obligated to pay Bungie $2.5 million in bonuses each year from 2010 to 2013 provided it reaches certain production milestones. An additional bonus of $2.5 million will be given to Bungie provided the first “Destiny” release gets a 90 aggregate score on GameRankings.com.
What will you be playing “Destiny” on? The first game will be available for both the Xbox 360 and what the contract calls Xbox 720, while the following games will be released on the PlayStation 4, rumored to be named Orbis, and PCs.
Why was the contract unsealed in relation Zampella and West’s case? Their attorney Robert Schwartz pointed out in a May 1 brief that the two took a smaller royalty compared to other contracts in exchange for having more creative freedom with the Call of Duty series. His argument is that said creativity is responsible for the series’ monumental success and the two are entitled to adequate compensation based on that success, damages totaling almost $1 billion.