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Activision has paid Infinity Ward more than $493 million in bonuses for Call of Duty

Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Call of Duty publisher outlines the $493 million in bonuses it paid to Infinity Ward.

In a hearing at a Los Angeles Superior Court today, Activision lawyers said the publisher has paid out more than $493 million in bonuses to the original Call of Duty studio since 2003.

While some of those bonuses are awarded based on profits reaped from Infinity Ward-developed games, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the studio also received hefty bonus payouts for games developed by Treyarch and other Call of Duty game developers. Infinity Ward bonus pool payments for Treyarch's 2010 effort Call of Duty: Black Ops, for example, exceeded $100 million.

As part of multiple agreements with Activision, Infinity Ward had negotiated bonus payments for the use of their internally developed technology and for games that use the Call of Duty intellectual property.

Activision broke down the bonus payments into three categories: studio (games made by IW), tech (games using IW-developed software and assets) and IP (Call of Duty-branded games). As of the fourth quarter of 2011, Activision said Infinity Ward had received the following bonuses.

  • Call of Duty - $3.8 million (studio)
  • Call of Duty 2 - $69 million (studio)
  • Call of Duty 3 - $2.6 million (tech)
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - $74.5 million (studio)
  • Call of Duty: World at War - $13.96 million (tech), $18.68 million (IP)
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - $147.46 million (studio)
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops - $46 million (tech), $56.96 million (IP)
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 - $59.9 million (studio)

Activision's legal counsel told Polygon that the $147.46 million bonus pool paid to Infinity Ward for Modern Warfare 2 includes the $42 million recently paid to a group of former Infinity Ward employees who quit in the wake of the firing of the studio's co-founders.

Activision is facing a $1 billion lawsuit brought by the former heads of Infinity Ward, Jason West and Vince Zampella, and a group of 38 employees who left the studio and sued for unpaid bonuses related to Modern Warfare 2. Activision fired West and Zampella in 2010 for "breaches of contract and insubordination." West and Zampella then sued their former publisher for wrongful termination, alleging that Activision had "manufacture[d] a basis to fire" them in order to avoid paying out bonuses. That suit, including a countersuit filed by Activision, will go to trial in June.

Lawyers on both sides of the suit argued today whether West, Zampella and the other ex-Infinity Ward employees are owed bonus payments for Call of Duty games in which Infinity Ward was not directly involved and were released long after they were fired or quit.

Lawyers for the former Infinity Ward employees are seeking their share of "launch quarter" bonuses for Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – co-developed by Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer Games, Treyarch, Raven Software and others – arguing that they had contributed "significant" work to those titles.

Activision's counsel argued that West, Zampella and the 38 former Infinity Ward employees are not owed those royalties.

A hearing to discuss the trial's expert witnesses is scheduled for Tuesday. The case is set to go to trial starting June 1.