Xbox founder helped EA poach Infinity Ward bosses, claims Activision

Seamus Blackley played key role in MS's first console

Activision has alleged that one of the founding fathers of Microsoft's Xbox console aided EA in a bid to poach Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella.

The details are contained within Activision's $400 million lawsuit against West, Zampella and its rival publisher.

The amended complaint, which emerged yesterday, names one Seamus Blackley of talent group Creative Artists Agency.

It alleges that EA boss John Riccitiello asked Blackley to help the publisher court West and Zampella from Activision.


It then alleges that Blackley met with Zampella in August 2009, and wrote a subsequent email to the IW founder which read: "I'm stoked about your options. JR cooks a mean BBQ. I think we could accomplish some interesting chaos."

The 'JR' in the mail is thought to indicate Riccitiello.

Who's Seamus Blackley? One of the key figures in the creation of Microsoft's Xbox console, that's who.

A qualified pilot turned games developer, Blackley assisted with the creation of System Shock and Ultima Underworld at Blue Sky Productions in the 1990s. More famously, he helped to create the celebrated physics system in pilot sim Flight Unlimited in 1992.

He then joined Dreamworks in 1998, where he took a lead role as executive producer on licensed PC title Jurassic Park: Trespasser, published by EA.

But it was after joining Microsoft in 1999 - initially to work on Direct X - where he would really make his name.

Blackley co-wrote the initial Xbox proposal, and helped assemble the team that designed and built the device. He then became a B2B evangelist for the console - selling its abilities to game developers across the globe.

Blackley is widely credited with bringing young blood onto the Xbox project, and the quote:

"The scariest thing was... a bunch of fifty-five year old men, who have never played a game in their lives, decided they're gonna do a game console and then start talking about the specifications... This is like a group of men designing tampons or something... a very bad idea."

Blackley left Microsoft in 2002 and went on to head up the games division of the Creative Artists Agency.

Zampella and West created new studio Respawn and signed with EA Partners in April, after being sensationally sacked by Activision a month earlier.

EA has branded Activision's adjusted lawsuit "petty". EA spokesperson Jeff Brown said: "This is a PR play filled with pettiness and deliberate misdirection. Activision wants to hide the fact that they have no credible response to the claim of two artists who were fired and now just want to get paid for their work."