Activision Blizzard Faces Antitrust Lawsuit Over Alleged Call of Duty Competition Restrictions

Video game giant Activision Blizzard is confronting a lawsuit in the United States, with claims that it has engaged in practices restricting competition within organized gaming related to its flagship franchise "Call of Duty."

Professional gamers Hector Rodriguez and Seth Abner have filed an antitrust lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court, alleging that Activision has unlawfully monopolized the lucrative market for Call of Duty leagues and tournaments.

According to the lawsuit, Call of Duty, a first-person-shooter game introduced in 2003, has been instrumental in driving Activision's substantial annual revenue, reaching billions of dollars.

In response to the lawsuit, Activision stated that it would "strongly defend against these claims, which have no basis in fact or in law." The company mentioned rejecting a pre-lawsuit demand from the plaintiffs for "tens of millions of dollars."

Microsoft's acquisition of Activision for $69 billion last year is still undergoing scrutiny by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The lawsuit also highlights Activision's acquisition of Major League Gaming in 2016 for $46 million, which was noted as a leading Call of Duty competition organizer.

According to the plaintiffs, league and tournament play for Call of Duty was a "vibrant, competitive product market" until 2019 when Activision established its own league, allegedly eliminating competition and imposing restrictive contract provisions on teams and players.

The lawsuit further claims that teams unwilling or unable to meet Activision's demands were excluded from the professional Call of Duty market entirely.

Hector Rodriguez's company HECZ LLC is also listed as a plaintiff in the case.

This legal action follows Activision's settlement last year with the U.S. Justice Department over accusations of suppressing gamers’ wages in professional esports leagues. As part of the settlement, Activision agreed to refrain from imposing any salary caps without admitting any wrongdoing.

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