By Emily Birnbaum and Cecilia D’Anastasio | Bloomberg
Video game company Activision Blizzard agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department ensuring the company doesn’t suppress the wages of esports players even if it is acquired by Microsoft Corp.
The agreement, which the Justice Department filed in federal court in Washington Monday, comes after a long investigation into Activision’s efforts to limit compensation for players in professional esport leagues it owns and operates. The US is asking the court to approve the settlement, which would prevent the Santa Monica-based company from ever imposing a similar tax on its esports teams.
“Video games and esports are among the most popular and fastest growing forms of entertainment in the world today, and professional esports players — like all workers — deserve the benefits of competition for their services,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
Activision Blizzard in a statement said it believes that the salary agreements, which it suspended under pressure from the Justice Department in 2021, were “lawful” and “did not have an adverse impact on player salaries.”
“We remain committed to a player ecosystem with fair pay and healthcare,” said Activision Blizzard spokesperson Joe Christinat.
The Justice Department is asking the court for a consent decree that ensures Activision Blizzard is not allowed to enforce a “competitive balance tax,” which penalized teams for paying esports players above a certain threshold set by the company. The department opened its probe into esports leagues last year.