John Carmack and ZeniMax media used to have a great relationship, but then Palmer Luckey came on the scene, got Carmack interested in helping to fix virtual reality, and then Oculus happened. Carmack left ZeniMax, ZeniMax sued Oculus and won $500 million in damages last month, and now Carmack is suing ZeniMax.
Surprisingly, Carmack's lawsuit is unrelated to the troubles between Oculus and ZeniMax. He simply wants to get paid the money owed to him by ZeniMax when Carmack's former company id Software was acquired.
ZeniMax acquired id Software in 2009, and with it took control of key gaming intellectual property including Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake. The cost of that transaction was $150 million and Carmack was set to earn $45 million. He has yet to be paid.
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In 2011, Carmack converted half that $45 million into ZeniMax common stock. The remaining $22.5 million was owed to him in cash, but ZeniMax isn't paying up. According to Dallas News, Carmack is attempting to compel ZeniMax to pay using the lawsuit and states, "Sour grapes is not an affirmative defense to breach of contract."
ZeniMax commented that the lawsuit is "completely without merit" and that, "Apparently lacking in remorse, and disregarding the evidence of his many faithless acts and violations of law, Mr. Carmack has decided to try again."
As TechCrunch points out, ZeniMax received $500 million in damages against Oculus, not Carmack, and no charges were brought against him specifically. So it seems likely this will either lead to another lawsuit focusing on a claim of breach of contract by Carmack, or ZeniMax will pay up to end the dispute. Based on the comments made by ZeniMax, it seems unlikely Carmack is going to get any money without a fight.