The US Department of Justice has sued Activision Blizzard for instituting an anti-competitive salary cap for players in its esports leagues, Call of Duty and Overwatch. The cap was called Competitive Balance Tax and aimed to prevent richer, better-resourced teams from attracting the best talent by imposing a fine if they paid their players above a set limit. In practice, this meant deflating wages for all players on a team. Activision Blizzard settled the suit, agreeing not to impose any tax or salary cap in the future.
Although the company had already discontinued the practice in 2021 amidst the DOJ investigation, it still maintains that the Competitive Balance Tax was lawful and had no adverse impact on player salaries. The publisher’s settlement could be an effort to avoid complications with its pending acquisition by Microsoft, which is already facing accusations of anti-competitive behavior.