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Department of Justice opens inquiry into Overwatch League

The Department of Justice is reportedly looking into a potential antitrust violation tied to Activision Blizzard's Overwatch League.

Why it matters: The growing world of esports had largely avoided the scrutiny of U.S. officials.

Driving the news: The inquiry was first reported by Dot Esports, which says the DOJ is looking into the league's unpublicized "soft salary cap." Such caps limit how much teams can pay their playerswithout facing financial penalties.

  • The three-year-old Overwatch League features franchised teams of players from the U.S., South Korea and elsewhere that compete in six-v-six virtual shootouts with "Overwatch's" colorful sci-fi characters.
  • According to Dot Esports: "At the center of [the] inquiry is the lack of a players’ union, which would allow the Overwatch League to apply for a 'nonstatutory labor exemption.' That status has been granted to the NFL, NBA, and other pro sports leagues who have labor unions."

What they're saying: "We have received an inquiry from the Department of Justice and are cooperating accordingly," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Axios.

  • They continued: "We deliver epic entertainment to our fans and support our players and teams in producing the most competitive and enjoyable esports leagues in the world."
  • A spokesperson for the DOJ declined to comment.

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