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Novel Lawsuit Challenges Activision Blizzard’s Monopoly over Call of Duty

 |  February 22, 2024

A group of Call of Duty players has filed a lawsuit against gaming giant Activision Blizzard Inc., alleging the company’s monopoly control over the popular video game constitutes unlawful behavior. This legal action has far-reaching implications for the gaming industry, as it questions the extent of power that publishers hold over their players.

Reported by Bloomberg Law, the lawsuit highlights a pivotal moment where players are challenging the traditional dynamics of the gaming ecosystem. According to John Holden, an associate professor at Oklahoma State University specializing in esports, this marks the first instance of players taking legal action against a publisher to contest its monopoly over a single game.

Holden emphasized the significance of this case, stating, “They would lose this protection that we’ve thought for a long time sort of underpinned the industry.”

The plaintiffs argue that Activision Blizzard’s copyright control over Call of Duty has allowed the company to dominate the professional Call of Duty market by withholding game licenses from organizers of other competitions. This, they claim, unfairly restricts competition within the esports landscape.

Read more: FTC To Appeal Decision Allowing Microsoft’s Acquisition Of Activision Blizzard

The debate surrounding the lawsuit delves into the question of whether esports should be treated as traditional sports. Maureen Weston, a sports law expert at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law, noted the distinction between physical sports equipment, which is typically not owned by any single entity, and the intellectual property inherent in video games.

A ruling in favor of the Call of Duty players could reshape the esports industry, limiting the market power of Activision Blizzard. Holden speculates that such a decision could empower players and teams to independently pursue opportunities within the esports realm, without the need for publisher intervention.

Activision Blizzard responded to the lawsuit, asserting its intention to vigorously defend itself against the claims. The company expressed disappointment over the legal action, stating it disrupts the efforts of various stakeholders invested in the success of the Call of Duty League.

This legal battle underscores the complex interplay between competition law and copyright protections, with potential ramifications extending beyond the gaming sector. Holden suggests that depending on the outcome, the case could prompt revisions to end-user license agreements for various electronic products, ushering in a new era of legal scrutiny over publisher-player dynamics.