In a complaint filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 creators Jason West and Vince Zampella allege that Activision prepared to fire them while they were developing Modern Warfare 2. The suit contends that the pair's termination after the game's completion was part of Activision's game-plan.
According to the suit, West and Zampella were first promised that it was "impossible" for them to be fired, and that Activision would not release any games "associated with the Modern Warfare brand" or Call of Duty games "set in the post-Vietnam era, near future, or the distant future" without the consent of West and Zampella.
The filing contends that Activision then "strung West and Zampella along," until they completed Modern Warfare 2, then Activision "failed to honor its promises regarding West and Zampella's creative authority, then later used the conflict surrounding that failure as a pretext for firing West and Zampella" before the pair's bonuses were paid.
While Activision was supposedly "paying lip service" to West and Zampella's creative authority over the Modern Warfare franchise, the company was developing Modern Warfare and Call of Duty games secretly, without their permission, in violation of the agreements they had.
"While West and Zampella were still hard at work developing Modern Warfare 2," the complaint reads, "Activision began preparing to terminate them once the game was delivered."
According to the suit, part of Activision's motivations includes making the company "as attractive a merger partner as possible to Vivendi Games, with whom it was in the process of merging."
The potential payout for the complainants are huge here, including punishment payments (punitive damages), actual damages related to sales of Modern Warfare games, DLC, and other products, as well as the potential for ownership of the Modern Warfare franchise for games set post-Vietnam or in the near or distant future. So, basically, riches beyond the dreams of avarice are on the table, although no specific numbers are asked for in this complaint.
Every story, of course, has two sides. According to Activision, West and Zampella conspired with rival game publisher Electronic Arts to "derail" the Call of Duty franchise, and to basically steal Activision's intellectual property related to the Call of Duty series.
As of yet, Activision hasn't responded publicly to the filing, but when they do, we'll let you know. If you want to pore over some legal documents, check them out here.