The lawsuit, filed in March 2020 by a minor named “BD” in San Diego Superior Court, alleges that Blizzard, through Overwatch, “engages in predatory practices that induce children to engage in gambling and to similar addictive behaviors”.
Blizzard profits from creating addictive behaviors in children to generate huge revenue, most of which comes from in-game purchases known as “loot boxes” or “loot crates,” according to the complaint. Loot Boxes, purchased with real money, are random in-game chances to obtain desirable or useful tools, such as better costumes.
“Overwatch loot boxes have all the hallmarks of a Las Vegas-style slot machine, including the psychological aspects to encourage and be addictive, particularly among teenagers,” the lawsuit alleged.
During oral arguments Monday in the California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Blizzard asked judges to send the claims to arbitration, reversing a trial court’s findings that there was no conspicuous notice of an arbitration agreement that a reasonably prudent user would not have had notice.
BD has agreed to arbitrate no less than five times since he started playing Overwatch in 2016, Blizzard told the court. He agreed to an end-user license agreement, containing an arbitration clause, when he first registered and downloaded the game, as well as several times when updating the contract, Blizzard said.
Blizzard’s attorney argued that the trial court appeared to have misunderstood a screenshot of the agreement included in the game maker’s pleadings. The screenshot wasn’t the entire agreement, and a scroll bar in the corner, along with a phrase that there was additional text below, indicates that there was additional content that users had to read and accept, the company said.
The alternative would require Blizzard to somehow recreate all of the agreement content on a single screen, which is impractical and violates the requirement that arbitration agreements must be placed on equal footing with all other contracts, Blizzard argued.
But BD’s attorney alleged that for players to find the arbitration agreement, they had to navigate from the account creation page to the license agreement and click on 16 hyperlinks to access additional documents, including the arbitration clause. It’s unreasonable to expect video game buyers to skim through and read all of these contracts to figure out that there’s an arbitration agreement, his attorney told the panel.
Blood, Hurst & O’Reardon LLP and the law firms of Andrew J. Brown represent BD Greenberg Traurig LLP represents Blizzard.
The case is BD v. Blizzard Entertainment Inc., Cal. CT. App., 4th Dist., No. D078506, 3/14/22.