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Activision sues Electronic Arts, seeks $400 million over Infinity Ward game studio

Amended lawsuit against Call of Duty creators Jason West and Vince Zampella accuses EA, through Creative Artists Agency, of seeking to destroy the studio, which West and Zampella ran under Activision.

December 23, 2010|By Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times

Activision Blizzard Inc. has dragged its biggest rival and Hollywood's biggest talent agency into its legal battle with the creators of Call of Duty.

Santa Monica-based Activision, the nation's largest video game publisher, on Tuesday amended its lawsuit against Jason West and Vince Zampella, who were fired last March, to add Electronic Arts Inc. as a defendant.

The new complaint accuses No. 2 game publisher EA of hatching a secret plot to "destabilize, disrupt and ... destroy Infinity Ward," the Activision-owned studio that West and Zampella ran.

The lawsuit accuses EA, of Redwood City, Calif., of working through Creative Artists Agency and the head of its video game department, Seamus Blackley, to "hijack" West and Zampella.

After West and Zampella were fired for alleged breach of contract and insubordination, the two set up an independent studio, Respawn Entertainment, and signed a publishing deal with EA. More than 35 Infinity Ward employees subsequently quit, and many now work at Respawn.

Activision is seeking $400 million in damages and penalties from EA, West and Zampella.

In a statement, EA spokesman Jeff Brown described the lawsuit as "a PR play filled with pettiness and deliberate misdirection. Activision wants to hide the fact that they have no credible response to the claim of two artists who were fired and now just want to get paid for their work."

CAA, which was not added as a defendant, declined to comment.

West and Zampella last March sued Activision for more than $36 million, alleging that they were fired because their former employer wanted to avoid paying them royalties on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the best-selling video game of 2009. The next month, 38 former and then-current Infinity Ward employees sued Activision for what they claimed was $75 million to $125 million in unpaid royalties.

alex.pham@latimes.com

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