Days before it is expected to go to trial for a $1-billion lawsuit on its Call of Duty franchise, Activision Blizzard Inc. cut a $42-million check to several dozen game developers who are suing the company.
The 40 developers, led by Todd Alderman, alleged that Activision failed to pay them royalties for their work on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which launched in November 2009 and has garnered more than $1 billion in revenue for the Santa Monica game publisher.
The payment, intended to compensate the developers for royalties accumulated through the first three months of the game's launch, is in addition to the $22-million "launch bonus" that the company has paid the plaintiffs, bringing the total to $64 million. The payments do not constitute a settlement of the lawsuit.
Attorneys for the developers said Activision's payment doesn't begin to cover what the developers are owed under contracts.
"This is a fraction of the damages and bonuses that they have earned," said Alan Rader, who represents the 40 developers. He said his clients are unmoved by the last-minute payment. "It changes nothing."
Activision declined to comment on the matter.
Activision also faces a separate lawsuit from two lead developers of Modern Warfare 2, Jason West and Vincent Zampella, who claim that the company improperly fired them in 2010 and withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties for the blockbuster Call of Duty franchise that they helped create.
"Forty-two million dollars doesn't buy you a time machine that lets you go back and erase all your bad conduct," said Robert Schwartz, who represents West and Zampella.
The trial is set to open May 29, but Activision is expected to request a 30-day postponement Tuesday so its new trial lawyer, Beth Wilkinson, can get up to speed on the case. Activision hired Wilkinson last week. She is known for delivering the closing arguments that led to the death sentence for Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh.
-- Alex Pham
Screenshot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 courtesy of Infinity Ward / Activision Blizzard.