“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II,” the latest tentpole release in the popular video game franchise, uses real world locales as inspiration for some of its multiplayer battlegrounds. Infinity Ward, the game’s developer, created maps featuring settings resembling Los Angeles’ Getty Museum, Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit racetrack and Amsterdam’s Conservatorium Hotel. Now, the Conservatorium is considering legal action against Activision Blizzard for unwanted exposure. The map based on the Getty has vanished from the game.
Valderas Museum, a map that closely resembles the J. Paul Getty Museum, was playable during “Modern Warfare II’s” beta but did not appear in the game’s official release. Some fans have speculated that Activision cut the map due to negative feedback; beta players criticized it for being too large for most multiplayer modes, leaving little cover for players to hide behind from snipers and campers. Activision Blizzard, the game’s publisher, has not given a reason for its removal. Activision did not reply go a request for comment in time for publication.
Other fans speculated that Valderas Museum was removed from the game due to its similarity to the Getty. In response to an inquiry from The Washington Post, Lisa Lapin, vice president of communications at the J. Paul Getty Trust, wrote: “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment at this time.”
While it’s not known whether the Getty took issue with its portrayal in “Modern Warfare II,” the Conservatorium Hotel, a five-star hotel in Amsterdam’s prestigious Museum Quarter, has taken a public stance against its appearance in the game. One of the game’s multiplayer maps is Breenbergh Hotel, which seems to be based off the Conservatorium. According to the Dutch newspaper de Volksrant, the Conservatorium has been considering legal action against Activision Blizzard since it never consented to being put in the game.
“We have taken note of the fact that the Conservatorium Hotel is undesirably the scene of the new ‘Call of Duty,’ ” said Conservatorium manager Roy Tomassen to de Volksrant. “More generally, we don’t support games that seem to encourage the use of violence. The game in no way reflects our core values and we regret our apparent and unwanted involvement.”
Breenbergh Hotel is still in the game’s active map rotation.
Back in August, Activision revealed a first look at a map called Marina Bay Grand Prix during the 2022 Call of Duty League Championship. It was seemingly modeled after the Marina Bay Street Circuit, a racetrack in Singapore that hosts Formula One’s Singapore Grand Prix. In a now-deleted tweet, Activision said that the map would be playable in the “Modern Warfare II” beta. But as the beta date drew closer, Activision retroactively removed all mentions of the map from its official channels without comment.
The map returned in “Modern Warfare II’s” official release but was renamed Crown Raceway, with the signage and other assets in the map reflecting the change. The map’s location was also changed from Singapore to the broader “Southeast Asia.” Neither Activision nor Formula One released statements about the change, but fans have suspected that it was due to a conflict around associating Singapore’s famed racetrack with gun violence.
Copyright laws surrounding the use of buildings in art are complicated. Many (but not all) famous structures, such as the White House, are safe to use; Generally speaking, private buildings made before 1990 are not protected by copyright. But litigation against game companies using real buildings and places as inspiration is not unprecedented. In 2008, Rockstar Games was sued by ESS Entertainment for its depiction of a gentleman’s club in “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” ESS, the operator of the real Los Angeles establishment Play Pen Gentlemen’s Club, alleged that Rockstar infringed upon its trademark with its virtual club, Pig Pen. The court ruled in favor of Rockstar.