Infinity Ward Heads Allegedly Delayed MW2 Map Pack On EA’s Behalf
An interesting twist in the $400 million USD court case between Activision and EA. Newly admissable emails appear to suggest Infinity Ward held back the release of a Modern Warfare 2 map pack at EA’s request.
The court documents, obtained by Gamasutra, feature several email exchanges that seem to cast EA and former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella in a somewhat murky light.
The most apparently damning document is an email sent EA’s senior director of global marketing Lincoln Hershberger to EA SVP of marketing Jeff Karp, EA LA general manager Sean Decker, EA Europe SVP Patrick Soderlund, EA Games label president Frank Gibeau and Karl-Magnuss Troedsson, executive producer of the Battlefield franchise. This email, entitled “The Fall of IW?” was sent on 3 March 2010, the day after West and Zampella were removed by Activision on the grounds of ‘insubordination.’
Hershberger’s email reads “A couple months ago, I asked Vince [Zampella] to hold back their map pack [suggested to be Modern Warfare 2's Stimulus Package] until after we launched (he owes me one). Given that they’ve already made a billion, he was cool with that, obviously [Bobby] Kotick took it as being belligerent.”
On the face of it, this alleged email seems to show the intentional delay of Modern Warfare 2′s Stimulus map pack by Zampella, to the direct benefit of then-competitor EA’s Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Bad Company 2 launched on 2 March 2010. Modern Warfare 2′s Stimulus followed on 30 March.
EA spokesperson Jeff Brown has told Gamasutra that the email “was obviously sarcasm” and that “It’s clear from the email this was a joke.” Which is possible, but the email does seem to be missing a traditional punchline.
What makes these alleged activities especially dubious is that West and Zampella (as the newly formed Respawn) ultimately signed a publishing deal with EA. At the time, Activision accused its former employees of brokering a deal with a major competitor while still under contract. Further emails revealed today point to EA courting West and Zampella as far back as August 2009.
An exchange from that period between EA CEO John Riccitiello and COO John Schappert reads:
“Schappert: “Suggest Frank join – let’s chat to close …”
Riccitiello: “Excellent. You should meet them separate and join me. More angles is good.”
Schappert: “Fyi, looks like Seamus has it in hand and Vince/Jason are aligned, which is good.””
‘Seamus’ allegedly refers to Seamus Blackly, West and Zampella’s agent at the time in question.
As a result of the above emails, Activision is claiming “unlawful conduct” from “the highest levels” at EA.