The lights are on
Treyarch’s Black Ops II marks the series’ first move into the future, but it also raises questions about the ongoing relationship between Activision and Infinity Ward. Over two years ago, details regarding the lawsuit began to appear publicly. One such detail stated that Call of Duty titles set after Vietnam would be exclusive to Infinity Ward. We recently obtained some court documents (which you can see below), and it appears that this clause was indeed included in Infinity Ward’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
As you can see in the MOU excerpt above, Infinity Ward had the rights to all Call of Duty games set in “modern day (post-Vietnam), the near future, or distant future.” With Black Ops II’s 2025 setting, it’s clear that Treyarch went with the near future setting anyway.
With the historically stressful relationship between Infinity Ward and Treyarch, the documents suggest that the latter may have been frustrated with their restrictions.. Several documents allude to Treyarch’s repeated attempts to feature elements that would make the original Black Ops “feel more modern” or otherwise bank off of the popularity of the Modern Warfare name. One complaint revolves around the use of guns in Black Ops that weren’t designed or made available until the 1980s or 1990s. Another centers on an email from an Activision rep that initially proposed “Modern Warfare Origins” as a title for Black Ops, branding it as a prequel to Infinity Ward’s series.
Infinity Ward’s MOU states that the developer had the rights to anything featuring Modern Warfare branding. Despite this, former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vince Zampella claim that Activision never provided them with the gold master of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex (the Treyarch-developed Wii port of Call of Duty 4) before the game went into production. Another claim states that Activision attempted to keep Infinity Ward in the dark regarding the development of the free-to-play Call of Duty Online title (which never materialized).
Considering that the trial is yet to happen, it's unclear if Activision could land itself in legal trouble thanks to Black Ops II's futuristic setting. I spoke with Eric Chad, an intellectual property attorney with the firm Merchant & Gould. Regarding Activision's punishment if Zampella and West win the lawsuit, Chad said "[Pulling Black Ops II from the shelves] is likely a possible remedy. This does occasionally happen, but I think it is much more likely that the remedy would be some sort of damages payment, like a forced royalty." He continued, "It seems like Black Ops II is likely substantially complete. That might make it hard for the court to order them to change it. Much more likely would be either of the remedies you discussed above [Pulling the game or facing a damage payment]. Damages, in my opinion, are the most likely."
Many of the court documents make mention of the “post-Vietnam” clause, but the current status of the agreement is unknown. I asked Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia about the matter last month, and he declined to comment. Other attempts to reach out to Activision reps have been met with similar silence (which is understandable considering they’re in relation to ongoing litigation). One likely scenario is that Activision believes the agreement was voided when West and Zampella were fired, allowing Treyarch to legally break the Vietnam barrier. Despite this, we may not know for sure until more details of the ongoing trial are made public.
UPDATE (5/9/2012): Activision responded to this story with the following: “There is no basis for the plaintiffs in the Infinity Ward suit to block the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”
To see the full Memorandum of Understanding, view the gallery below.
Email the author Dan Ryckert, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
As Activision will always do, pay it with money:) haha that is just as simple as that, here take some money as we will get billions this holiday season.. trolol haha
why doesnt treyarch ask infinity ward for permision and why can treyarch only make post vietnam games thats freaken stupid i believe treyarch has the rights to make black ops 2
Activision's a Dick. I hope they lose millions.
Haven't game companies had enough of being total D-Bags to one another? They're already rich as hell, just let em have this one Infinity Ward, Black Ops brought us the Counter Strike-stolen Gun Game, and not to mention Nazi Zombies mode, which is infinitely more entertaining than MW3's multiplayer. But considering the appeal of Nazi Zombies, we expect another installment in Black Ops II, and if it's in the future how will there be Nazi's? Commie Zombies Mode? This is getting ridiculous
Oh come on! Companies should know well enough now that video games fall under freedom of speech in the Constitution. People can put whatever the hell they want into a video game and they can't get in trouble for it. Sure it may cause a ruckus, but the developers are allowed to put in whatever they want and keep it that way. Grow up, people.
this makes me LOL, if Black Ops 2 gets forced to cancel, there wouldn't be a new CoD this coming November, and the kids would rage
This certainly favors West and Zampella if those two pieces of their contract are the only parts of their contract relevant to this issue. There could be parts that make the points mentioned above irrelevant, it's possible that Activision has full legal rights to make this game in this setting. Or maybe Activison just didn't bother to have anyone look over those old contracts when they started production of this game.
Whatever I still can't wait! No second chance! I love these games, mostly the guns. I just got a M4 like in the game www.airsplat.com/airsoft-video-games.htm and they have a bunch of other guns from different games.
The game is going to suck anyway!
I really wish IW wasn't in the hands of activision, and that West and Zampella still had the reigns. It's my belief that activision ruined the CoD franchise. And I really hope they lose the legal battle with West And Zampella
This seriously the simplest solution ever. This game is set in a parallel existence to our own. In this parallel universe, technology progresses backwards. Therefore, the vietnam war wont occur in this universe until 2075. Gosh, they need to get some innovators in that company. It will help in more than just the legal facet.
i always wondered why treyarch kept doing past wars...thats not really fair that they cant move on and are only limited...what did they expect them to do the game on, battle of little big horn? I mean come on
even if blops 2 got canned they would just change up the name and tweak a few things and release it as another game problem solved activision is to greedy to have them restart
Activision, being douchebags since 2008!