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The Almighty Buck The Courts Games

Activision Hit With $500m Suit From Modern Warfare 2 Devs 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the pow-right-in-the-kisser dept.
Dragoniz3r writes "Activision has been served a lawsuit from 38 plaintiffs, including present and former Infinity Ward employees, demanding up to half a billion dollars. The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for 'unpaid bonuses, royalties, profit-sharing, and future profits from games such as Modern Warfare 3, and punitive damages.'"
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Activision Hit With $500m Suit From Modern Warfare 2 Devs

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  • Go plaintiffs! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I hope the plaintiffs win, and get every stinkin penny.

    • I agree! Stick it to 'em, Dev Monkeys. You're worth double what you want.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        1b in sales
        ---
        - 500m to Activision
        - 1/3 to lawyers
        - 1/2 to taxes
        / 38 plaintiffs
        * 2 = 8.77m to each person that did the work.. sounds fair to me.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hesaigo999ca (786966)

      I agree, as too many times I have seen and experienced first hand the sadness of having worked extra hours unpaid as
      the management tells me they can't afford to, and then when deadlines are met and sales are made, the management gives themselves all big bonuses....and sip on their crystal champagne, and laugh at how stupid we (the progs) all were to give up those hours for their bonuses.

  • Brain Drain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jarrettwold2002 (601633) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @01:38AM (#32009980)

    Honestly, for Activision the lawsuit is worrying. However, what would be far more worrying is the fact that they're apparently lost 26 people from the MW dev team and they're losing more frequently.

    "That brings us to a staggering 26 employees in total to have left Infinity Ward since the drama began, a tally which constitutes the bulk of the studio's creative and programming "brains trust"."

    http://kotaku.com/5525152/eight-more-leave-modern-warfare-developers-bringing-total-to-26 [kotaku.com]

    • by beakerMeep (716990) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @02:02AM (#32010202)
      So 12 of the people suing them are still working there?

      Awkward...
      • by jarrettwold2002 (601633) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @02:25AM (#32010438)

        Activision Boss: "Oh hey Tom, so uh... how's the weather?"
        Infinity Ward - Tom: "Sorry, under the advice of my attorney I cannot answer this question in any way other than "it may or may not be nice".

        • I think you mean

          Tom: "Sorry, under the advice of my attorney I cannot answer this question in any way other than 'Sorry, under the advice of my attorney I cannot answer this question in any way other than "it may or may not be nice"'".

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hesaigo999ca (786966)

        No, insider info, and they can't be forced out, very sneaky way of always being kep in the loop so to speak.
        Insider> (makes eyes at receptionist) Hi Janet, you look lovely today, as always...
        Receptionist> Thanks Frank, i got some new nail polish....looks great
        Insider>Yeah, that will be great for your board meeting later and impress Jim with....(smiles)
        Receptionist>No Jim wont be there to see it , hes busy trying to find a lawyer to counter sue and put some

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This does sort of kill any credibility for Activision's claims. They alleged the fired individuals had gone from being model employees to seditious saboteurs, poisoning the dev team and conspiring to quit.

      What's far more likely is that Activision treated their devs like crap (surprise surprise) and for most of them, having the heads of IW fired was the final straw. This is further reinforced by the fact that Activision (allegedly) owes them back wages and royalties, something they are obligated by both la

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by KDR_11k (778916)

        They only fired West and Zampella (the rest quit on their own volition) and overall IW doesn't exactly seem like a bunch of model employees, more like a bunch of assholes that weren't being punished because of their contribution to the bottom line (some of the IW guys publicly insulted Activision guys on their forums).

        Also Activisiopn alleged that W&Z were in talks with EA over defecting and what do you know? A few days after getting fired they get hired by EA. Sure, that's not evidence but it's pretty

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by alvinrod (889928)
        Not to take the side of Activision (I despise them personally.) on this issue, but I could file a lawsuit against them tomorrow for twice as much money for any claims that I could care to come up with. Just because someone files a lawsuit doesn't always mean that it's reasonable or anywhere near an indication of the truth.

        My personal belief is that Activision fucked the IW developers out of money owed to them, but I don't know the full story and this could just as easily be a publicity ploy from the form
        • by DMalic (1118167)
          They all just randomly decided to quit in a down economy and forgo bonus money + the bonus money owed the two lead devs? Yes, every dev that quits, the bonuses for the remaining ones pile higher. And they're still leaving. Granted, they might believe that Activision are too rotten to pay anyone at this point, but if that's the argument you're relying on..
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by GameboyRMH (1153867)

            Yes, every dev that quits, the bonuses for the execs and upper management pile higher.

            FTFY.

            • by DMalic (1118167)
              Activision claimed that the bonus pool for Infinity Ward will remain the same and whoever stays will get more money. Not saying it will happen.
      • Re:Brain Drain (Score:5, Interesting)

        by increment1 (1722312) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:43AM (#32011954)

        What's far more likely is that Activision treated their devs like crap (surprise surprise) and for most of them, having the heads of IW fired was the final straw.

        This is ironic because Activision (the original Activision) was founded expressly to treat developers better. To quote from Wikipedia:

        "Before the formation of Activision, software for video game consoles were published exclusively by makers of the systems for which the games were designed. For example, Atari was the only publisher of games for the Atari 2600. This was particularly galling to the developers of the games, as they received no financial rewards for games that sold well, and did not receive credit for their games. This caused several programmers to resign from their jobs. Activision became the first third-party game publisher for game consoles."

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That was before Bobby Kotick bought the company name and sacked everyone there from the original Activision.

        • Isn't the cake always a lie?
    • by T Murphy (1054674) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @03:15AM (#32010802) Journal
      ...So replace those lost programmers with liberal arts majors and start an offshoot "Post-Modern Warfare" series.
    • by Zedrick (764028)
      which constitutes the bulk of the studio's creative and programming....

      Hah. Activision hasn't done anything creative since Fighter Bomber was released in 1990. It was good and quite original despite being a flight sim. After that, boring copies of copies. (yes, I know that a lot of people think CIV II is the best game ever. I think it's slimy.)

      There's plenty of other companies left who can remake all those same old games we've seen over and over and over again. Sigh. Everything was better in the old da
      • Nostalgia and dated (xb360) or confusing (ps3) console hardware holding back PC Gaming (Crysis is still the most graphically advanced game on the market) aside, there are some seriously inspired games out there for the PC. There's no need to dig out your pocket calculator to play 'let's write words on the screen in numbers' just yet. Athough I would concede the point that they're all rather too forgiving. Perhaps Star Control III will save us all?
        • by Logiksan (947439)

          Athough I would concede the point that they're all rather too forgiving.

          Spelunky [spelunkyworld.com] would like to clear something up regarding this statement.

          • I should have clarified, my comment was targeted more at AAA titles and player's expectations to be pampered instead of challenged.

            Focusing on the FPS genre, games tend to have adopted the checkpoint system every 50 metres (Dead Space, Mass Effect 2) which rarely leads to any genuinely difficult encounters. Compare this to the original AvP which only allowed you to save a couple of times per mission... Combined with sometimes random encounters with foes, that was a scary game to play as a Marine.
    • I would say all of those people leaving really makes it sound like it was Activision that was mostly to blame for all this.
      Well they lost their biggest money making team of developers, hopefully they will treat their employees better in the future.

      But I am happy that such a good team of developers are now working for hopefully less evil companies/company.

    • by drsquare (530038)

      Honestly, for Activision the lawsuit is worrying. However, what would be far more worrying is the fact that they're apparently lost 26 people from the MW dev team and they're losing more frequently.

      Not really, MW is a franchise at the stage where it just needs a skeleton team to keep churning out sequels that will sell on name alone.

  • Wait, I thought the whole insubordination deal came about because IW didn't want to make MW3? Sounds like they want to have their cake (not make MW3) and eat it too (get the money for it).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The money they're asking for is compensation they were promised for Modern Warfare 2 and never received, not for the MW3 game they don't even want to make.
      • Re:MW3 money? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lance Dearnis (1184983) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @01:53AM (#32010114)
        Their contract specifies (Unsurprisingly) that they have some rights to the Modern Warfare series as a whole. Go back and look at the old papers - the first lawsuit - to see that contract. In other words: What they want, I would expect, is that Activision doesn't get to make more Modern Warfare at all. It's not like Activision came up with it, they're firing the people who did. They might not be able legally to take the Modern Warfare name with them, but if they can't, they'll take the money from it at least. Either way, Activision's actions here are pretty patently and obviously illegal. IANAL, but the California Legal Code in terms of 'you must pay people all owed money within 72 hours of their departure' doesn't require one to interpret. The other stuff may be up in the air, but Activision's definitely ripping them off here.
        • The contract you refer to was an employment contract, it refers to the responsibilities that the employees would have to fulfill to get paid, which is working on CoD4 and later MWs. It doesn't give them any rights to the series, those belong to Infinity Ward, and Infinity Ward is a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision, which means those belong to Activision.

          I don't know about money owed, if Activision owes these people money for what they did, they should pay up. It is unlikely Activision owes these people

          • by nosferatu1001 (264446) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @06:26AM (#32011866)

            WHen IW was bought IW retained the rights to the CoD name and future titles.

            • by kkwst2 (992504)

              But isn't this just a technicality. That only helps if Activision tries to sell off IW. But it still doesn't help the people who don't work for IW anymore. They (former IW staff) still wouldn't own any IP, right?

              I'm sure they all made a lot of money from the original deal. When you make a deal with the devil...

              Not sure they've learned their lesson, as now they're making deals with probably a worse devil (EA). Guess you need funding from somewhere. They better hope they get good lawyers to draw up their

        • Re:MW3 money? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Plekto (1018050) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @04:36AM (#32011228)

          The tricky part here, though, is "California". The laws there are such that you have to pay money owed under a legal contract, period. But you can only recover actual damages and interest. Nothing else. Their inclusion of "punitive damages" and the insane amount is just as likely to get the thing thrown out by a judge. Just watch most of those TV court shows - they tend to be filmed in California or New York, both of which almost every other episode have the judge explain to the plaintiff (for the thousandth time) that "pain and damages" and the like aren't recoverable there.

          I put the real bill at closer to maybe 50 million, which is still a lot of cash. My guess is that they are hoping to settle out of court since Activision knows they are going to be found guilty of something the second the lawyers go through their emails and documents. Again, California's laws are a PITA to deal with and it has some of the nastiest chain-of-evidence and E-discovery laws. If you hide anything, you're meat. If you destroy anything, you're toast. If you "forgot" to keep the old emails, you essentially lose the case by default. And the guys really do show up with the police in tow if required and haul your entire backups off to get analyzed by firms that are so good at this stuff that nothing short of god-level encryption will save you.

          Basic summary - don't do business in California if you plan to screw your partners or employees. You lose every single time. The only question is - how much will Activision have to settle for.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        The money they're asking for is compensation they were promised for Modern Warfare 2 and never received, not for the MW3 game they don't even want to make.

        The article does explicitly say that the claims include "future profits from games such as Modern Warfare 3". Remember, once lawyers get the scent of money, you shouldn't expect any consistency in the claims.

  • Res ipsa loquitur (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rollgunner (630808) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @01:41AM (#32010018)
    Bringing a lawsuit against a huge corporation for half a billion dollars... That *is* Modern Warfare.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      I wish Al Qaeda would figure that out. Lawsuits are so much better than bullets ...

  • by J-1000 (869558) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @01:54AM (#32010120)
    ...anyone know how the developers themselves feel about the "no servers/mods" policy with PC Modern Warfare 2? I'm hoping *maybe* that was an Activision decision and *maybe* Respawn's future stuff will have a less lame implementation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alarash (746254)
      I don't have the source handy, so you'll have to trust my anonymous internet comment, but the "no mod/dedicated server for MW2" policy was decided by Jason West and Vince Zampella, the founders who left first.
  • Do I have any rights to sue Activision for ruining my potential profits? Can I do anything to have Kotick and crew ousted?

    • by znerk (1162519)

      Do I have any rights to sue Activision for ruining my potential profits?

      As a matter of fact, yes.

      Can I do anything to have Kotick and crew ousted?

      Depends... just how many shares do you hold, or can you get access to? A large enough percentage could just swing a vote... or even cause one to be raised in the first place.

      --
      This is not legal advice. Use your favorite search engine for more information, or contact an actual lawyer.

    • by XAD1975 (1628499)
      Yes you can. If you're shareholder you have your word to say at the General Assembly and by voting against the approval of the last exercise results. You may not win, but at least you'll be heard.
  • It seems they don't care to leave their IP in the clutches of Activision, and from a consumer's standpoint, its not a big deal after there have been some 6 Call of Duty games. Publishers should learn their place, as stepping stones.
  • I love this sort of claim and counter claim the only people who stand to benefit are the lawyers, whats the betting that bonus' etc turn out to be discretionary and require you to still be working for the company at the time it is paid. (and my formaer employers even required you not to be working a notice period always caused a nice flood of resignations post payment) Certainly that is the norm in the uk for most big companies to have clauses in the contracts. The only people who stand to be better off u
  • activision loses the game, customers lose the game. this means infinitywards is plotting for the subsequent class action suit filed by purchasers of the game (thanks to the lack of dedicated servers) or they plan to use this for leverage, no?
  • Stick it to the man!
  • Seriously, when did game development become so lucrative? I know that Atari used to pay their devs and coders slave wages, and that has changed (EA excluded, perhaps), but when did the little guy start making $13M? I'll be lucky to see half of that in my lifetime.

    If I'm missing something important from the article, please quote it. The site is blocked by my employer's Websense firewall.

    Block Reason: The Websense category "Games" is filtered.

  • I'd begin by tactically inserting into Activision Headquarters, mow down about 5 execs with my SCAR-H Grenade Launcher. Call in a Predator Missile and get a Triple Kill... Call in a Harrier Strike, which would take out about 4 or 5 more... then I would rape away with my AC-130. Then I would demand my royalties
  • by Valgar (225897) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @12:15PM (#32016424) Homepage

    The fact that they can screw with and abuse people so hard that they actually WANT to go work for EA, speaks volumes about how dedicated Activision must be to sucking every last cent of work out of their employees.

  • = they loste the best people they have, the people that made their greatest hit. No matter if they win this lawsuit, they lose anyway when it comes to future production. Talent should be nurtured, it's weird that big corporations fail to realize this somehow, actvision, microsoft to name but a few ...

Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature. -- Rich Kulawiec

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