H3CZ, Scump are suing Activision for ‘unlawful monopoly’ allegedly created by CoD League

Call of Duty publisher Activision is facing a $680 million lawsuit from CDL players and personalities who allege it holds an “unlawful monopoly” over the CoD esports landscape.

The biggest names in the bombshell suit, which was filed in Los Angeles federal court and originally reported by Bloomberg on Feb. 15, include OpTic Texas president and OpTic Gaming founder Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez, as well as CoD legend Seth “Scump” Abner. The suit alleges Activision “wielded its power as a virtual nuclear weapon” to coerce founding CDL teams into paying a $27.5 million entry-free and took 50 percent of the revenue made by teams from tickets, sponsorships, and more.

In one snippet of the case filing, which lists H3CZ, Scump, and H3CZ LLC as the plaintiffs, the lawsuit alleges only Activision had the “exclusive right” to contract with sponsors and broadcasters, and that teams and players were prohibited “from participating or supporting any professional Call of Duty leagues or tournaments other than the CDL,” including any “commercialized” gameplay like informal friendly matches on stream.

The lawsuit also claims these contractual provisions, among others, “impermissibly enriched Activision at the expense of the professional Call of Duty League players and teams that were now under Activision’s thumb.”

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges H3CZ wasn’t able to rejoin the CDL with the reacquired OpTic as a “sole owner” of a team, forcing him to partner with Envy in what was a groundbreaking merger. The lawsuit claims both he and Scump lost out on different revenue opportunities because of the CDL.

The lawsuit further alleges Activision Blizzard acquired competitor Major League Gaming in 2016 without the approval of the US Federal Trade Commission, while cementing “a complete monopoly over” the professional CoD scene, and refusing to grant CoD licenses to organizers of other commercial competitions. The FTC most recently attempted to block Microsoft’s momentous $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard this past year.

Activision Blizzard’s other franchised esports league, the Overwatch League, shut down last July after years of down revenue attributed to viewership drops and a lack of sponsors, among other factors.

The fifth season of the CDL started in December. The competition has been on pause and is scheduled to restart with Major Two qualifiers on Thursday, Feb. 16.

Update Feb. 15, 10.31pm CT: An Activision spokesperson shared a statement with Dot Esports regarding the CDL antitrust allegations soon after the original publication of this article. The statement in full reads: “Mr. Rodriguez (aka OpTic H3CZ) and Mr. Abner (aka Scump) demanded that Activision pay them tens of millions of dollars to avoid this meritless litigation, and when their demands were not met, they filed. We will strongly defend against these claims, which have no basis in fact or in law. We are disappointed that these members of the esports community would bring this suit which is disruptive to team owners, players, fans, and partners who have invested so much time and energy into the Call of Duty League’s success.”

Update Feb. 15, 10.14pm CT:This article has been updated to reflect that H3CZ, Scump, and H3CZ LLC are the only plaintiffs in the filing. We regret this error.

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