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Possible settlement talks delay 'Call of Duty' trial hearing

May 30, 2012|By Ben Fritz and Alex Pham
  • A settlement may be imminent in the multibillion dollar trial of Activision's "Call of Duty" video game franchise.
A settlement may be imminent in the multibillion dollar trial of Activision's… (Stephen Yang )

A pretrial hearing in the multibillion-dollar "Call of Duty" lawsuit was once again delayed  as lawyers for all parties huddled in private talks that could result in a last-minute settlement.

Proceedings were set to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday after a similar delay on Tuesday, but attorneys for all parties involved in the case --Activision Blizzard Inc., "Call of Duty" co-creators Jason West and Vincent Zampella, and 40 developers who worked on the series -- instead spent most of the morning talking behind closed doors in conference rooms at a Los Angeles Superior Court building.

Following approximately half an hour of discussions between representatives for the three sides, five attorneys for Activision then spent nearly an hour speaking privately. One of the lawyers was seen talking on a mobile phone during much of the meeting.

During a break, Activision attorney Beth Wilkinson said to West and Zampella's counsel Bobby Schwartz that her team's meeting was taking such a long time because "we're still talking to our bosses," a likely reference to senior executives at the video game publisher's Santa Monica headquarters.

At about 11:45 a.m., Judge Elihu Berle announced that the case would remain in recess until Thursday at 1:30 p.m., presumably to allow the parties more time to try to reach a settlement before the trial's scheduled start on Friday.

An agreement would end two years of acrimonious litigation that ensued after Activision shocked the industry by firing West and Zampella, co-creators of the multibillion-dollar "Call of Duty" shooter franchise. West and Zampella sued the game publisher after they were let go in March 2010, claiming wrongful termination. Activision countersued, accusing the developers of breaching their contracts by trying to decamp to rival Electronic Arts.

After West and Zampella's departure, more than 40 game developers who had worked with them quit. The group filed a separate lawsuit against Activision, alleging that the company deprived them of hundreds of millions of dollars in bonus payments and royalties.

In total, the game makers are asking for more than $2 billion in damages, according to an Activision court filing.

Some game developers have seen the dispute as a test case for artists' rights, while investors are carefully watching how far Activision will go to assert control over one of its most valuable franchises, whose eight titles have collectively generated an estimated $7 billion in revenue.

RELATED:

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