After months of finger-pointing and allegations, the company behind the massively popular Call of Duty series may have proof to support claims that one of their video games was sabotaged by its creators at the urging of a rival.
An internal email from a rival Electronic Arts executive, released today as part of a court filing, seems to boast about getting one of the developers of Modern Warfare 2 to delay add-ons for the game. A delay could have prevented the add-on from interfering with the release of the shooter's biggest competitor.
"A couple months ago, I asked Vince to hold back their map pack until after we launched. (He owes me one,) " starts the email written by the rival developer, apparently referring to Modern Warfare 2 developer Vince Zampella. "Given that they've already made a billion, he was cool with that, obviously (Activision CEO ) Kotick took it as being belligerent."
Reached for comment today, EA spokesman Jeff Brown said the email was an obvious joke.
"This was obviously sarcasm," he said. "It's clear from the email this was a joke and they never spoke. We explained this to lawyers at Activision – who apparently don't have much of a sense of humor."
The email was written by Lincoln Hershberger, senior director of global marketing at Electronic Arts' DICE studio to a slew of other EA executives including Frank Gibeau, the company's head of EA Games. The note was dated March 2, the day DICE's Battlefield Bad Company 2 hit stores and 28 days before the "Stimulus Pack" map pack for Modern Warfare 2 went on sale for the Xbox 360.
The emails, unsealed in a court filing earlier this week, are part of an amended complaint by Activision that adds Electronic Arts to the lawsuit they originally filed against Jason West and Zampella. The two headed-up Infinity Wards, Activision's studio behind Modern Warfare, before they were fired amid allegations of sabotage and insubordination.
The two sued Activision with their own allegations, calling the company Orwellian in its control of the studio and saying they were stiffed on bonus. Activision counter-sued.
The emails were given to Activision by EA as a part of discovery in the legal proceedings. But it wasn't until this week that the court allowed them to be entered into the public record. Other emails in the document, filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, seem to show Electronic Arts actively pursuing West and Zampella as future employees. Under California law, the two could be in breach of their employment contract if they actively seek work with another company.
The unsealed emails include exchanges between executives at Electronic Arts discussing the hiring of the two, including requests for taking a more aggressive approach at bringing them over.
Update: Bobby Schwartz, the attorney representing Jason West and Vince Zampella, offered the following reaction to Activision's claims in a statement to Kotaku.
"Activision's claims of such things as 'tortious interference' are not merely unfounded, they are undermined by the very documents attached to and quoted in its cross-complaint. The contact and communications that Jason and Vince had with EA were entirely lawful. If Activision's cross-complaint proves anything, it is that Activision is consumed with ill-will towards plaintiffs. It is bad enough that Activision refused to honor its contract with them and pay them the millions of dollars they and the other Infinity Ward employees earned from their years of work in developing Modern Warfare 2. Now Activision wants to ruin their ability to earn a living anywhere else. When the trial comes, we will make sure the jury appreciates what Activision is attempting to do."
"As to the allegation that Vince deliberately delayed a map pack for MW2 at the request of one of EA's developers, the allegation is completely false, and at trial it will be clear that this is a desperate attempt by Activision to find some basis to justify its misconduct and refusal to pay what it owes, not only to Jason and Vince, but to all of the other Infinity Ward employees."