Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty ‘bonus pool’ close to half a billion

A screenshot from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the eighth game in the series.
A screenshot from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the eighth game in the series.
(Activision Blizzard Inc.)

Activision Blizzard Inc. on Friday dropped a hint at how much money could be at stake in its high-profile lawsuit against two former developers of the company’s Call of Duty games.

At a pre-trial hearing in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, Activision’s attorneys said the Santa Monica game publisher had created a “bonus pool” totaling $493.5 million over the last nine years for employees at Infinity Ward, the studio that created the Call of Duty franchise and developed five out of the eight games in the series.

The games have generated a total of close to $7 billion in revenue for Activision since the company first launched it in 2003.

The amounts of the bonuses were dictated by two contracts Activision had signed with Jason West and Vincent Zampella, who headed up Infinity Ward until Activision fired them in March 2010.

Those bonuses were disclosed in the context of a hearing to determine how the court should interpret West and Zampella’s contracts with Activision.

Robert Schwartz, West and Zampella’s attorney, said in an interview that his clients did not receive some of the money in that pool that they believe they are entitled to. Schwartz also said his clients are owed additional royalties that were not included in the pool, though he did not specify what those payments might have been. As a result, the amount of money at stake in the trial, once damages are included, have reached upward of $1 billion.

According to Activision, the breakdown of the bonus pool by game title is as follows:

Call of Duty (2003): $3.8 million
Call of Duty 2 (2005): $69.4 million
Call of Duty 3 (2006): $2.6 million
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2007): $74.5 million
Call of Duty: World at War (2008): $32.7 million
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009): $147.5 million
Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010): $103.1 million
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011): $59.9 million

Total pool amount as of Dec. 31, 2011: $493.5 million.

Keep in mind that the last game, Modern Warfare 3, launched Nov. 8; since then, the game has generated additional revenue that is not reflected in the calculations.


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