After it finished reviewing all the evidence in the pre-trial lead up to its high-profile lawsuit against former Infinity Ward co-heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, Activision believed that the discovery phase didn't implicate the constituents of the so-called "Infinity Ward Employee Group," a source familiar with the case told Polygon. As a result, the video game publisher issued a check to the group's lawyers for $42 million dollars today, which includes 10 percent interest and is in addition to the original $22 million already paid for the promised first quarter launch bonus.
Reached for comment this evening, Bruce Isaacs, attorney for the Infinity Ward Employee Group, confirmed that the payment was made today, but called it a "cynical attempt to look good before the jury trial."
"I can confirm for you that it happened today," he told Polygon. "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."
In 2010, the original Infinity Ward Employee Group suit included 38 plaintiffs, including notable figures like former Infinity Ward Lead Designer Todd Alderman and former Infinity Ward Lead Software Engineer Frank Gigliotti, both of whom took positions with West and Zampella's new venture, Respawn Entertainment. The group alleged that Activision failed to pay them royalties for their work on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Our source says that the $42 million payment would be going to 40 individuals; it's unclear who the two additional claimants are.
In what is evidently an unusual turn, our source said that the payment was not a part of a settlement; following the discovery phase, which closed in March, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick agreed that since the evidence didn't implicate the 40 members of the Infinity Ward Employee Group, the company opted to pay the amount it believed the former employees were owed and focus its legal efforts on West and Zampella.
"Activision owes my clients approximately $75 million to $125 million dollars," Isaacs told G4 in 2010. G4 reported that "the suit alleges at least $54 million is still due from 2009 profits alone," with unpaid bonuses owed past that. The group is also seeking an additional $75 to $500 million in "punitive damages."
Since this payment was not related to a settlement, the IWEG can still pursue the remainder of the money it claims it's entitled to. While the $42 million dollar figure was not a number the group negotiated, it was based on its first request – before damages inflated the amount, our source says.
Isaacs tells Polygon that the group is still planning to pursue the suit against Activision.
"They are just as interested as they were before hand," he said. "We are seeking all kinds of bonuses per the contract. This payment relates to one particular game and one particular time period and one particular bonus."
Both sides set for an appearance before a judge in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday afternoon. Activision hired a new high profile attorney last week.