Of the two fraud charges brought against Activision-Blizzard by Jason West and Vincent Zampella, former bosses of developer Infinity Ward, a Los Angeles court has recently dismissed one of the fraud charges. In March 2010, West and Zampella filed suit against Activision over unpaid royalties after being fired from Infinity Ward.
Robert Schwartz, their attorney, said this at the time:
“Instead of thanking, lauding, or just plain paying Jason and Vince for giving Activision the most successful entertainment product ever offered to the public, last month Activision hired lawyers to conduct a pretextual ‘investigation’ into unstated and unsubstantiated charges of ‘insubordination’ and ‘breach of fiduciary duty,’ which then became the grounds for their termination on Monday, March 1.”
The two fraud charges in question were added to the suit in April last year, with West and Zampella claiming Activision had no intention of “honouring the clauses in their contracts related to performance-related bonuses and creative control.”
Bloomberg reports that State Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle has rejected the fraudulent inducement claim. This particular claim relates to when deceit is used to make an individual act to their own disadvantage. The claim of promissory fraud, however, has been allowed to stand, relating to cases where a promise had been by a party that they had no intention of keeping.
Activison maintains that the two former employees were fired because of secret talks between them and EA over opening a new studio.
Later this year on May 7, the case will go on trial.
Analysis: It’s hard for me to care about cases such as these anymore. It’s simply one party’s word against another party’s word, and rich companies attempt to get richer or smaller companies try to take what money they can from the big companies. That’s not to say that this case is insignificant or a troll case, but the fact the industry is one that sues each other at every possible turn bothers me.
However, if I had to give my own opinion, I would lean more towards the side of West and Zampella. This extends mostly from my disdain for Activision as a company, which has made some questionable decisions in terms of how they value their customers rather than the simple facts present within the case. Only one of the charges has been dismissed, though, and I don’t know how the other will fare during the upcoming trial. Hopefully, the case is resolved soon and each party can move on from this and continue to publish and develop quality titles.