Spark Unlimited Sues Activision

In March, independent studio Spark Unlimited, developers of Call of Duty: Finest Hour, announced that it was splitting ways with long-time publisher Activision, and had signed a deal with Atari to develop games on the next-gen consoles. On the same day as the Spark announcement, Activision announced that their internal development studios would continue to develop console Call of Duty titles. Infinity Ward, the original Call of Duty developers, would bring Call of Duty 2 to the Xbox 360 and Grey Matter and Treyarch will co-develop Call of Duty: Big Red One.

Rumors abound as to why Spark and Activision parted ways, but now it’s pretty clear that the relationship was ugly as hell: Sparks attorney’s filed a lawsuit against Activision seeking $10 million in damages and compensation, as well as an injunction preventing the sale of Call of Duty: Big Red One.

The list of accusations include: breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation, and breach of an implied contract. According to Spark, Activision deviated from a contract signed in September 2002. The agreement, Spark says, involved the company developing three games, the first of which being Call of Duty: Finest Hour; however, Spark alleges that “Activision induced Spark into reducing and delaying certain of its rights under the contract by falsely promising that it would continue to partner with Spark to develop the second and third titles in the Finest Hour line, when in fact Activision had already decided to bring the development of the sequel in-house at Activision so it could realize an even higher level of profit on the sequels than it had on the original game … in May 2004, Activision informed Spark that it would not continue funding the game [Call of Duty: Finest Hour] unless Spark agreed to amend the development agreement and take a substantially reduced royalty rate.”

“Activision repaid Spark by usurping Spark’s rights and taking for itself only all benefits of the contract … then followed up this usurpation by seeking to kill off Spark altogether. Activision refused to pay Spark the royalties owed on Finest Hour or the bridge financing due under the contract, stole Spark’s idea, and then hired away Spark’s own employees to develop that sequel, hoping that if Spark was sufficiently crippled, Spark would be unable to protect its rights … in the October through November time frame, a limited amount of Spark employees were working around the clock to implement a multiplayer [mode] into [the] game. The multiplayer was not in the game’s original specifications, and the game was otherwise substantially complete. During the period, Activision had demanded that the remaining Spark employees vacate Spark’s premises so that Activision could work closely with the key employees to implement the multiplayer. Although Spark had specifically negotiated a bridge funding provision that was meant to cover employee salaries and overhead during this gap period between products, Activision refused to provide this funding.”

Spark also claims that Acclaim charged Spark $1,882,920.97 for Finest Hour’s multiplayer implementation, rather than provide the necessary funding, which was deducted from the first Finest Hour royalty payment in March 2005.

The legal complaint goes on, alleging more cases of Activision charging Spark for developing the game, breech of contract, and a case of Activision hiring developers away from Spark in order to develop the Call of Duty series further.

This one is looking to be a long, drawn-out, and bitter lawsuit.

Provided by Geekstreak