It has been a very long war between Activision and Electronic Arts for the throne of being the biggest video game publisher in the video game industry today. This war was pretty silent, as both companies exchanged employees, exchanged blows, none of which were pushed to the breaking point. Until now.
Activision was among one of the survivors of the video game crash[s] of 1977 and 1983. Activision was one of the very first third-party video game publisher – thus making Activision one of the oldest video game companies next to Atari. Electronic Arts was founded before the 1983 crash, and still survives. Both companies have been shipping out world-class video games for more than 20 years.
Medal of Honor is a brand that Electronic Arts built, but in 2002 the Medal of Honor brand was on a decline due to strong competition in the First Person Shooter genre. One brand that emerged dominant in the genre was… Call of Duty, a Activision property. Released in 2003, Call of Duty emerged from the masses of World War II inspired video games. To date, Call of Duty has sold more than 55 million units worldwide; that includes Modern Warfare.
The year is 2007, the first person genre was oversaturated with the World War II theme. Gamers were bored with WWII, people wanted something new, something fresh. Infinity Ward took a calculated risk by creating a Modern shooter. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare revolutionized the first person shooter genre by incorporating RPG elements into the actual gameplay, it also introduced arcade-style killstreaks, and player perks. COD4 went on to sell more than 17 million units. In 2009, Modern Warfare 2 was released and grossed 550 million dollars in the first week of sales. Effectively dethroning Grand Theft Auto IV for best selling video game of all time.
Some of the employees of Infinity Ward were estatic about the numbers, but Activision was getting greedy and with-held the cash from Jason West, and Vince Zampella. This caused both West and Zampella to file a lawsuit against Activision. [source] In addition, 38 Infinity Ward employees also filed a lawsuit alleging the very same 550 million were with-held from them. [source]
Activision filed a counter-suit against West and Zampella alleging that both were trying to delay the development of Modern Warfare 3. [source] Meanwhile, Activision claims that both Zampella and West were having secret meetings with a “top-competitor.” [source] From the outset, Activision threw the first punch at Electronic Arts.
Vince and Jason respawned their own company. They also announced an agreement between the newly formed Respawn Entertainment studio and the world’s largest video game publisher Electronic Arts. [source] This meant that Respawn Entertainment becomes part of the EA Partners Program, and that Electronic Arts is the exclusive distributor and publisher of future Respawn Entertainment games. The contract between Respawn Entertainment and EA is an partnership agreement.
Keep in mind, that both Jason, and Vince were fired by Activision inside the company they originally founded. Infinity Ward was founded by Jason West, Grant Collier, and Vince Zampella, Activision acquired Infinity Ward in 2003. One question you may have on your mind would be, what’s the connection between Electronic Arts and the team at Infinity Ward? Well, Infinity Ward was founded by the very same team that developed Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Interesting? No? It’s ironic if you ask me.
In late 2010, Activision filed a cross-complaint amendment to include Electronic Arts as part of the defense, they allege that Electronic Arts negotiated with West and Zampella to break the contracts, establish Respawn, and join EA’s Partners Program. [source] The very next month, a federal judge ruled in favor of Activision by denying EA’s submission for dismissal from the West and Zampella case. [source] The judge cited Electronic Arts’ pursuit of confidential information from West and Zampella as the reason for rejecting the dismissal.
The war has just begun, and the case will be heard on May 23, 2011. That’s approximately one and a half week before E3 festivities begins.