I’ve read quite a few of these lawsuits over the years, usually about violations of the in-game terms of service, or the unfair competition factor of cheating software. But under California law, Activision’s attorneys said, “Defendants violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) […] By conducting and participating in businesses that engage in extortionate activities. “
The publishers allege that the men deliberately conspired against Activision to sell cheats and carried out a complex operation aimed at sabotaging the COD series. Now Activision wants all the money they make through this, and then some.
Activision’s explanation of racketeering is worth reading, as it outlines how these cheating dealers operate at scale.
“The business is a well-coordinated multi-level marketing machine. Defendants work together to continually sell cheat software licenses directly and recruit reseller defendants. The network of sellers and reseller defendants has continued the same steps with thousands of instances with numerous independent of U.S. customers regarding the marketing, sales, distribution and support of cheating software.”
So EO sells cheats, but it also has a network of agents selling cheats on its behalf (they get a cut). “Defendants operate under a common set of norms and rules. Resellers buy cheat software licenses in bulk and then expand marketing and sales of cheat software through their own advertising. After selling their bulk stock, reseller defendants follow the same repatriation A revenue model for businesses while keeping a portion of the revenue for themselves.”
Activision claimed that “thousands” of such transactions occurred in the United States and “thousands” abroad.
Activision’s lawyers then listed the shell companies involved in the EO, followed by the names of various individuals, most of them located in Germany, but also some in the US, UK, France, Spain and the Netherlands. I’m not going to copy all the names because there are definitely dozens and it would be a somewhat pointless list, but with Activision included in the lawsuit but not recognizable: “Activision was told and believed, and accordingly claimed, Defendant ‘Poo’ is an individual residing in Europe.”
The three “masterminds and driving forces” identified were defendants Valentin Rick, Leon Schlender and “Croatle”. These people are mainly responsible for the development of software, EO website and finance. In addition, the lawsuit names Valentin Rick’s mother, Regina Rick, for “providing administrative, financial, legal and other consulting services to EO Enterprise.”
No jokes about the basement. And then there’s the kicker: Activision has to pay not only damages and expenses, but all profits made by cheating businesses, which will be calculated at trial but are estimated to be at least a few hundred thousand dollars.
It also said that the money was not enough: the people needed to be “barred and restrained by the courts,” meaning a permanent injunction against further “unfair competition” conduct against Activision. It wants to turn off cheat software, give Activision copies of all EO software for “seize or destroy,” and basically anything else it can get its hands on.
Of course, this is only one side of the story, and the individuals behind EO have yet to defend themselves. They probably shouldn’t, though: “Defendants engaged in an online ‘trolling’ model of Activision and its lawyers, such as creating fake accounts in the name of Activision lawyers, posting false information purporting to come from Activision lawyers, or Use the name of an Activision attorney in the ad.”
Activision called for a jury trial, and is sure to go all out. Interestingly, the first half of the lawsuit refers to the damage that cheating software like this is doing to Activision and the COD brand, with the publisher’s attorney saying that due to companies like EO, there have been negative social media posts about the issue of cheating in the game and News article. So glad all those COD fans who complained on Twitter knew someone noticed, at this point the lawsuit also claims that “Activision has been able to identify and ban hundreds of thousands of accounts using cheats in past COD games year.”
Larger publishers will certainly take a more aggressive approach to cheaters and other forms of malfeasance surrounding their games legally. It’s weird to see this, because for as long as I know, these shady companies seem to be part of PC gaming: we’ve all seen ads and consoled ourselves knowing that opponent X was definitely aiming.However, as this suit of lawsuits makes clear, businesses like EO are not brave rogues, but organized and established businesses committed to making money By harming another company’s product, and the experiences of a whole bunch of other players. Is this extortion? We’re about to find out.