It would seem that gender discrimination, sexual harassment, overall toxic workplace culture, and an increasing pile of legal struggles revealing more disturbing information by the day aren’t the only thing plaguing Activision Blizzard. In the newest turn of events, the company is now being accused of plagiarism for a couple of images appearing in Call of Duty – one of Activision Blizzard’s most prominent titles.
The plagiarism was brought to light by Twitter user HUSK3RGAM3R, who noticed that the Notice Me IV bundle artwork in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in-game store is plagiarized. Like all items in the store, the Notice Me IV bundle uses a banner to illustrate the nature and content of cosmetic items included, in this case, anime-themed customization skins. However, the banner image of this particular bundle looked suspiciously familiar, and after conducting some online research, HUSK3RGAM3R concluded that the art came straight from the popular anime Goblin Slayer.
According to his Twitter post, it would seem that Activision Blizzard went on and copied a frame from the opening of Goblin Slayer to promote the new pack in Call of Duty: Cold War, presenting the fandom with almost a one-for-one copy. Though HUSK3RGAM3R later rectified his original statement in the follow-up Tweet by saying that the plagiarized still come from Modern Warfare, another game in the franchise, his point still stands – the art was clearly plagiarized.
The internet denizens quickly reacted to HUSK3RGAM3R’s findings and compared two images through various techniques, including image overlaying, only to reveal shocking and gnarly evidence of plagiarism. The black-and-white still from the Notice Me IV bundle is an exact match for the one found in the opening sequence of Goblin Slayer anime. Unfortunately, as far as the fandom of both the game and the anime show know, the companies behind their respective intellectual properties haven’t made any licensing agreements for this particular shot, and there’s no way of knowing unless Activision Blizzard issues an official response.
The question is: will the company admit to plagiarizing artwork, given that it’s currently in the center of a massive controversy? Activision Blizzard, the company behind the Call of Duty titles, got sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in July this year, over “frat boy” workplace culture, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination towards its female employees. The original lawsuit was followed by an additional damaging lawsuit from the company’s investors, strikes, crucial senior executives leaving the company, and the resignation of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack. Additionally, the original lawsuit was later expanded, stating that the company hinders DFEH’s investigative efforts through enforcement of NDA’s.
Plagiarism, though frowned upon and legally addressed, is common in the gaming industry. Several gaming companies were accused of plagiarism this year alone, including Capcom, for unsanctioned use of copyrighted material in Resident Evil and Devil May Cry franchises and Activision Blizzard for its use of images based on other artist’s concept art. The latter involves a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by a famous wrestler against Call of Duty, which was ruled in favor of Activision.
All of this begs the following question: just how much plagiarism gamers haven’t noticed in various gaming titles throughout the years, not just Call of Duty?