Activision’s Deal with Bungie Unearthed in Court Amid Infinity Ward Lawsuit
As we move closer to May 29, the planned start-date of the trial to decide the lawsuit between Activision and former Infinity Ward heads Jason West and Vincent Zampella, details about the publisher’s business dealings are starting to see the light of day. According to an article in the LA Times today, the 2010 contract between Halo developer Bungie and Activision have been unearthed, revealing a deal for four installments of a new sci-fi shooter code-named “Destiny” every two years for eight years total, including four DLC packs every other year.
The contract would provide royalties to Bungie ranging from 20 to 35 percent of “operating income,” which, as the article puts it, is “the amount left over after Activision deducts its costs, including development, production and marketing expenses.” In addition, Bungie will be entitled to $2.5 million in bonuses if the studio hits quality and budget marks between 2010 and 2013, and could get another $2.5 million if it garners a score of 90 or better on GameRankings.com. That aspect of the contract has echoes of Obsidian’s deal with Bethesda over Fallout: New Vegas, in which the developer scored an 84 on Metacritic when their bonus depended on scoring an 85.
The first game in “Destiny” would be Microsoft console exclusive, whether it be for the Xbox 360 or “720,” according to the contract. Sony’s consoles would get ports of the games coming down the line, as would the PC. Even still, that’s quite a coup for Microsoft.
West and Zampella’s attorney, it seems, is using the Bungie deal to highlight inequities for his clients’ own arrangement with Activision on Call of Duty, arguing that by eschewing larger royalties in favor of more creative control, they are “entitled to compensation for the value of that creative authority, which could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars depending on how the royalties are calculated,” says the Times article.
All in all, this is the first anyone’s known about the Activision/Bungie deal, and the details that have come out of this are pretty interesting. All that lawsuit stuff aside, this is basically a contract where Activision says, “Hey, why don’t you go ahead and make us four more new Halo games over the next eight years. Here’s a bunch of money.” I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Bungie’s working on another sci-fi shooter—go with what you know, after all. But now that it’s been confirmed, I’m curious to see how they change course from Halo and cover unexplored ground…