Happy Monday. Here is the latest news from the world of gaming.
Activision Blizzard settles lawsuit with the Department of Justice over esports salaries
Early last week, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over esport athlete pay. By the end of the week, the two had settled the suit.
At issue was the league’s Competitive Balance Tax, a luxury tax that penalized teams that spent over a fixed threshold on athletes. Many other professional sports have similar penalties for teams. However, unlike other sports leagues, esports athletes do not have a player’s union to represent them and agree to the cap. The current cap was implemented solely by Activision Blizzard, and the DOJ began investigating it in 2021.
"As a league, we wanted our products to be competitive, so we carefully designed and implemented the Competitive Balance Tax” an Activision Blizzard representative told GamesIndustry.biz. But the DOJ would see it differently. From the filing:
“Teams recognized that their spending on player compensation would have been higher absent the Competitive Balance Tax. The Tax minimized the risk that one team would substantially outbid another for a player. The Tax not only harmed the highest-paid players, but also depressed wages for all players on a team. For example, if a team wanted to pay a large salary to one player, the team would have to pay less to the other players on the team to avoid the Tax. Teams also understood that the Tax incentivized their competitors to limit player compensation in the same way, further exacerbating the Tax’s anticompetitive effects.”
"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," Justice Department antitrust division assistant attorney general Jonathan Kanter said.
By midweek, the suit was settled, with Activision Blizzard dropping the tax. "The tax was never levied, and the leagues voluntarily dropped it from our rules in 2021” said Activision in a statement. Going forward, Activision agreed to refrain from putting monetary caps on either esports athletes or teams.
The folks from The Games Letter checked out their first esports event a week ago. You can read all about it here.
So long, Klaus Teuber. And thanks for all the sheep
Klaus Teuber, the creator of the immensely popular board game Catan died due to "a brief and severe illness.” He was 70 years old.
Teuber was a German board game designer known most for Catan. The strategy game sold over 40 million copies worldwide, and is a gateway for many into more advanced board games.
You can read NPR’s obituary for Teuber, or check out this fun video featuring him and his sons.
A new challenger to the Steam Deck
Asus announced the ROG Ally, a handheld device made to challenge Valve’s popular Steam Deck.
The Ally looks to be a quieter, more powerful version of the Deck. The Ally also runs Windows 11 as compared to Linux, which could make it more accessible to many individuals. No price point or release date announced yet, but you can read more about it, or watch the lengthy video Asus created for the announcement.
Meanwhile, if you are curious which games are most popular on the Steam Deck, Valve released the list of the top 20 games for March.
Side quests (more stories worth reading)
🎮 It’s him, Mario. After a strong opening by Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves last week, game movies continued to level up at the box office. The Super Mario Bros Movie not only was the top movie of the week, it had the top opening weekend for an animated film ever, knocking Frozen 2 from the top of the list.
🎮 Mario’s favorite frenemy Sonic is also having success, postmortem. The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog was released for free on April fool’s day as a bit of a joke. Still, the game has over one million downloads, and is the most popular PC game in the Sonic franchise. Did I mention it is free?
🎮 Sony’s PlayStation is rolling out accessibility tags in their latest firmware update. These make it easier to learn more about accessibility options in a game before purchase.
🐉 Dungeons & Dragons summit that was intended to bring developers of the game and content creators together was marred by technical issues, poor communications and concerns over diversity and inclusion.
🎮 Cost-cutting continues at large game companies, as Amazon is laying off over 100 employees from its game division.
New Releases this week:
4/11: Tron: Identity (PC and Switch)
4/12: Murderous Muses (PlayStation, Xbox and PC)
4/12: Rusted Moss (PC)
4/12: Wildfrost (PC and Switch)
4/13: Hunt the Night (PC)
4/13: Shardpunk: Verminfall (PC)
4/13: Trinity Fusion (PC)