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“Call of Duty” Players File Lawsuit Against Activision Blizzard

— February 16, 2024

The two professional “Call of Duty” players claim that, after Activision Blizzard began running its own e-sports competitions, it began demanding egregious participation fees and making it borderline impossible for its rivals to host similar events.

Two prominent “Call of Duty” champions have filed an antitrust lawsuit against video game publisher Activision Blizzard, accusing the California-based company of maintaining an “unlawful monopoly” over competitive e-sports leagues and tournaments.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit was filed Thursday by plaintiffs Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez and Seth “Scump” Abner. In their complaint, the men alleged that Activision Blizzard abuses its leading market position to prevent some competitors from entering “Call of Duty” leagues and tournaments, while simultaneously coercing other would-be participants into paying “extortionate” amounts as a price of entry.

Any players who are “unwilling or unable” to meet the company’s demands, the lawsuit says, are “effectively frozen out of the market.”

Similarly, those with the means to pay—like Rodriguez and Abner—suffer financial harm as a result of Activision Blizzard’s alleged misconduct.

“As a result of its myriad anticompetitive actions, Activision now holds an unlawful 100% monopoly over that lucrative and once-vibrant market,” the lawsuit alleges. “Absent its unlawful monopoly, Activision could never have obtained those terms, which enrich Activision at the team owners’ and players’ expense without any pro-competitive justification.”

A gavel. Image via Wikimedia Commons via Flickr/user: Brian Turner. (CCA-BY-2.0).

The Los Angeles Times notes that the lawsuit identifies Abner as “the second-winningest player in professional “Call of Duty” history,” while Rodriguez is recognized as the leader of one of the most successful professional “Call of Duty” teams, OpTic.

Although Activision Blizzard now runs most “Call of Duty” tournaments, the complaint states that—before 2019—competitions were organized by an assortment of companies, including one-popular brands like Major League Gaming and GameStop.

During this period, before the Activision Blizzard takeover, most competitions only charged “modest entry fees” that gave “[the] best players and teams” a chance to participate and, potentially, earn prize money and lucrative sponsorships.

However, Activision Blizzard—the producer of the “Call of Duty” series—launched its own Activision CoD League in 2019, effectively vanquishing most of its competition overnight.

The company’s sudden squeeze on the competitive “Call of Duty” e-sports market was allegedly a result of Activision, the copyright holder of “Call of Duty,” refusing to grant licenses to rival organizers and operators.

“Thus, if a team of professional Call of Duty players wanted to continue to compete in professional Call of Duty leagues and tournaments—which is essential to the players’ and teams’ maintaining their ability to secure sponsorships and other “off-field” revenue opportunities—their only choice was to do so in the Activision CoD League on terms dictated by Activision,” said attorney Eric Rosen, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

At one point, after establishing its CoD League, Activision Blizzard reportedly demanded that teams pay up to $27.5 million each to participate; they were also required not to participate in, or promote, any other professional e-sports competitions involving “Call of Duty.”

The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and at least $100 million in damages.


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