While Blizzard wants as many eyes as possible on its Overwatch franchise, the studio could probably do without the recent gaze of the U.S. Department of Justice. According to a Kotaku report, the DOJ is probing the studio’s handling of its esports scene — in particular, how it pays its players.
While the DOJ isn’t launching a criminal investigation (yet?), the department has interviewed both the studio and Overwatch League employees about how Blizzard pays the professionals under its umbrella. The studio’s used a “soft salary cap” of an undisclosed amount (rumored to be $1.6 million) that redistributes pay over a certain amount to other franchises if a team earns too much money.
The concern is that this salary cap violates the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act and could land Blizzard in a lot of hot water — if not a criminal charge, then most definitely increased scrutiny and pressure by the public to hand out fare wages. Activision Blizzard said that it “received an inquiry from the Department of Justice and is cooperating accordingly.”