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Activision pays ex-Infinity Ward devs $42 million, case still headed to trial

Modern Warfare 2 bonus payment isn't a settlement related to upcoming court case

Activision has reportedly paid $42 million to 40 former Infinity Ward developers as part of long overdue royalties for their work on Modern Warfare 2.

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Polygon reports that the payment is not part of a settlement ahead of this month's trial between Activision and ex-Infinity Ward staff including former studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella.

Instead, following the pre-trial discovery phase, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick decided that the evidence didn't implicate the 40 members of the Infinity Ward Employee Group and so decided to pay the amount he believed they were owed, enabling the publisher to focus its legal efforts on West and Zampella.

Bruce Isaacs, attorney for the Infinity Ward Employee Group, labelled the payment a "cynical attempt to look good before the jury trial".

"I can confirm for you that it happened today," he said. "I can also tell you that although it is a meaningful payment it is only a small portion of what we are seeking in litigation. It is outrageous that they made us wait, they obviously knew they owed the money and this just shows that they breached the contract."

As the payment wasn't related to a settlement, the Infinity Ward Employee Group remains free to pursue the remainder of the money it claims it's owed, a figure that could run into hundreds of millions when other bonuses and damages are factored in.

Activision's dispute with West and Zampella stretches back to March 2010 when the ex-Infinity Ward pair sued the company for alleged unfair dismissal, claiming their contracts were terminated weeks before substantial Modern Warfare 2 royalty payments were due to be made. They later added two counts of fraud to their complaint, although one of these was recently dismissed.

38 separate Infinity Ward employees also sued Activision in 2010 over alleged unpaid bonuses and royalties for Modern Warfare 2, and their complaint was consolidated with West and Zampella's case against Activision. Notable figures in the original Infinity Ward Employee Group included the studio's former lead designer Todd Alderman and lead software engineer Frank Gigliotti, both of whom have since joined West and Zampella at start-up developer Respawn Entertainment, which is currently making a shooter set to be published by EA. With the original Infinity Ward Employee Group suit including 38 plaintiffs, the identity of the two additional claimants awarded a share of Activision's $42 million payment isn't clear.

Activision counter-sued West and Zampella, arguing that they had been secretly negotiating a deal with EA, and added the Battlefield publisher to its complaint in late 2010. A California Superior Court subsequently ruled that EA must defend itself in a $400 million contract-interference suit.

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