“Call of Duty” battles continue in legal system

News today on the legal battle between Activision and Electronic Arts over the former lead creators of the highly-lucrative “Call of Duty” series. 

Kotaku.com reports a new legal filing from Activision reveals the publisher is demanding $400 million from its rival. Activision claims that Electronic Arts improperly courted Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella in 2009, while the pair were still working on CoD: Modern Warfare 2 and under contract to Activision.

The nasty lawsuits between Call of Duty publisher Activision and the ousted lead creators of that hit series got nastier today with accusations that the president of rival EA was instrumental in trying to “hijack” the Call of Duty developers.

And there’s more mud being slung. Activision also says the makers of Modern Warfare gleefully sabotaged the sister studio behind this year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Activision spelled this out in a legal filing today through which they intend to add Medal of Honor and Battlefield publisher EA — their Coke-vs-Pepsi rival — to their lawsuit against Jason West and Vince Zampella, the founders of original CoD studio Infinity Ward. West and Zampella were fired by Activision in March for alleged acts of insubordination, just months after the studio the men founded finished and released the huge hit Modern Warfare 2.

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(After this story was originally filed, Kotaku heard back from both West and Zampella’s attorney and a spokesperson for EA. Both shot down the claims, the attorney calling them “a pathetic mash-up of false and reckless assertions.” EA called them “deliberate misdirection” but declined to specifically address the actions the company is accused of having taken.)

Infinity Ward, of course, developed the original Call of Duty game. Pretty much anyone reading this post remembers the first CoD game was a World War 2-themed FPS that emerged as a rival to EA’s “Medal of Honor” series. The first CoD came out way back in 2003 with an outstanding single-player campaign, something some gamers (the ones who considered to be lacking in more recent CoD offerings. 

“Medal of Honor: Allied Assault” and its expansion packs were good games in their own right, but “CoD” improved upon the other series by placing players in the midst of American, British and Soviet units. In this writer’s view, CoD and CoD 2 provided more immersive experiences than MoH games, which sometimes made it seem as if the player was in the role of the only soldier fighting the Nazis.

But that’s all in the past. The real-life fighting also includes allegations that West and Zampella tried to sabotage another studio’s marketing efforts. Treyarch, the alleged target, has developed other CoD titles, including the most recent offering, “Black Ops.”

Kotaku reports the case is expected to proceed in mid-2011. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether legal scholars will view either sides’ filings as examples of innovative legal strategies or whether the publishers’ attorneys will be accused of basically rehashing and repackaging previous efforts.