legal fracases arise from time to time, we turn to Law of the Game's Mark Methenitis, an actual, real lawyer, for thorough analysis. So, Methenitis kindly looked over the full complaint filed against Activision by ex-Infinity Ward heads Jason West and VInce Zampella, and then described to us the importance of the little things: the wording of the contract between the two ex-heads and Activision, the financial implications of the possible loss of the Modern Warfare name (for either side), and the ... shall we say, flamboyant ... language used in the document itself. According to Methenitis, the complaint's colorful phrasing is "for dramatic effect and little more."
Methenitis pointed out in an email exchange with Joystiq that "readers shouldn't place too much emphasis on the language in the facts" and that the story told by the claims "sounds like a relatively common 'business deal gone bad' kind of suit." As for this particular case, though, he allowed, "Granted, based on the value of Call of Duty and Modern Warfare, the stakes are high both for the royalties and future creative control of the brand." (Methenitis here is referring to the ex-studio heads' allegation that Activision had handed over creative control of all Modern Warfare-branded games, part of the "Memorandum of Understanding" that was agreed upon between the two parties before the creation of Modern Warfare 2.)
The stumbling block for West and Zampella, Methenitis said, could be in the wording of the memorandum. "That [receiving their royalties and retaining control of the Modern Warfare name] may be more problematic if the wording of the Memorandum of Understanding isn't such that it can be enforced as a contract," he said, adding, "Given the context and description in the suit, it seems like the term 'Memorandum of Understanding' in this case is just a fancy title for a contract rather than a less-than-enforceable agreement similar to a Letter of Intent." (Head past the break for Methenitis' full analysis.)
While Methenitis wouldn't weigh in on the possible end result of this suit, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter mentioned in his latest report that, "We think that West's and Zampella's claim for creative control over the Call of Duty and Modern Warfare brands has little merit, and we expect Activision to retain control over the brands." One thing's for sure, if a messy lawsuit does get underway (and isn't settled out of court like so many are), we'll assuredly catch wind of more dirty laundry.