Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jason West and Vince Zampella vs Activision

This is from paragraph 32 on page 10 of the court docs regarding the lawsuit between Jason West and Vince Zampella and Activision:

Activision conducted the investigation in a manner to maximize the inconvenience and anxiety it would cause West and Zampella. On little notice, Activision insisted on conducting interviews over the President's Day holiday weekend; West and Zampella were interrogated for over six hours in a windowless conference room; Activision investigators brought other Inifinty Ward employees to tears in their questioning and accusations and threatened West and Zampella with "insubordination" if they attempted to console them; Activision's outside counsel demanded that West and Zampella surrender their personal computers, phones, and communication devices to Activison for review by Activision's outside counsel and, when West and Zampella asserted their legally protected privacy rights, Activisions counsel said that doing so constituted further acts of insubordination.

Obviously creepy, but also odd. Why does one interfere to this degree with the goose who lays the golden eggs? Makes me wonder what ATVI's hidden agenda is. It's not like the bonuses they owed Infinity Ward were all that significant compared to the bottom line that Modern Warfare 2 is generating. Something isn't adding up.

And this is from Activision's 10-K filing with the SEC:

The Company is concluding an internal human resources inquiry into breaches of contract and insubordination by two senior employees at Infinity Ward. This matter is expected to involve the departure of key personnel and litigation. At present, the Company does not expect this matter to have a material impact on the Company.

Neat! They've figured out how to keep the departure of key personnel from materially impacting the company. Should definitely patent that trick!

On the bright side, I'm pretty sure Activision is going to lose this one. I think even their management must be keen to lose at this stage. I've been talking to lots of serious cookie AAA developers. They're uniformly appalled by what is happening and in complete solidarity with Jason and Vince.

If I were Activision, I would be apologizing and trying to find a graceful way to wriggle out of this, because the alternative, which is committing to winning the suit, means they need to launch a smear campaign against two of the most respected developers in the industry, and it's just frankly not going to work.

This is a link to Jake Simpson's post on the matter, which goes into detailed analysis of the personalities and backstory of what is involved in the suit. Jake was one of the lead developers on the Sims and is well-known for not being afraid to speak his mind.

Game designer Scott Jennings, one of the authors of Dark Age of Camelot, also weighs in with his post on the dark turn that publishers have taken.

Matthew Colville, a designer at Panic Volcanic and one of the folks who brought us Mercenaries 2 uses this sad tale of Modern Warfare to explain how publishers come to the creepy conclusion that games are seen as little more than vehicles for launching brands.

Dean Takahashi, who has consistently proven to be one of the most balanced and professional journalists in the game industry, has put up a great piece that details the entire history of Infinity Ward, leading up to this sad conclusion.

Veteran game industry attourney Dan Offner predicts part of the outcome at the end of this CNET article on the IW/Activision lawsuit.

Never disappointed with ex-lawyer/now-super-agent Keith Boesky's awesomely informative, knowledgeable, and colourful posts, I have to admit it's killing me that he's delivering the responsible adult position of waiting until we know more. Nevertheless, absolutely worth the read.


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