Big Fish Lawsuit Unraveling Legal Battles in Gaming Industry

Big Fish Lawsuit: Unraveling Legal Battles in Gaming Industry

The Rise of Casual Gaming

In recent years, the gaming industry has witnessed a significant shift towards casual gaming, with mobile games becoming increasingly popular among players of all ages. Big Fish Games, a prominent player in the casual gaming market, has been at the forefront of this trend, offering a wide range of games that appeal to a broad audience.

Allegations of Illegal Gambling

However, Big Fish Games found itself embroiled in controversy when it became the subject of a class-action lawsuit alleging that some of its games constituted illegal gambling under Washington state law. The lawsuit, filed in 2015, accused Big Fish of offering virtual chips for sale in its casino-style games, which could then be used to play games of chance.

Legal Arguments

Central to the lawsuit was the argument that purchasing virtual chips in Big Fish Games’ casino-style games constituted a form of gambling, as players could potentially win more chips or lose their purchased chips based on the outcome of the game. Plaintiffs alleged that this constituted illegal gambling under Washington state law, which prohibits online gambling.

Impact on the Gaming Industry

The lawsuit against Big Fish Games sent shockwaves through the gaming industry, raising questions about the legality of certain gaming mechanics and monetization strategies employed by game developers. Many industry observers viewed the case as a potential landmark legal battle that could have far-reaching implications for the gaming industry as a whole.

Legal Defense

In response to the lawsuit, Big Fish Games vigorously defended its practices, arguing that its games did not constitute illegal gambling. The company contended that the virtual chips used in its games had no monetary value and were provided solely for entertainment purposes. Furthermore, Big Fish Games asserted that players were not required to purchase virtual chips to play its games, as free chips were also available.

Court Rulings

The legal battle between Big Fish Games and the plaintiffs continued for several years, with both sides presenting their arguments in court. In 2018, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, overturning an earlier district court decision that had dismissed the lawsuit. The appeals court held that the virtual chips used in Big Fish Games’ casino-style games constituted a form of gambling under Washington state law.


Following the appeals court ruling, Big Fish Games opted to settle the lawsuit rather than continue the legal battle. In 2019, the company agreed to pay $155 million to settle the class-action lawsuit, bringing an end to the protracted legal dispute. The settlement also required Big Fish Games to make changes to its games to ensure compliance with state gambling laws.

Industry Response

The settlement of the Big Fish lawsuit sent shockwaves through the gaming industry, prompting other game developers to reevaluate their monetization strategies and gaming mechanics. Many developers implemented changes to their games to avoid running afoul of gambling laws and to mitigate the risk of facing similar legal challenges in the future.

Lessons Learned

The Big Fish lawsuit served as a wake-up call for the gaming industry, highlighting the need for greater scrutiny of gaming mechanics and monetization strategies. Game developers are now more cautious about implementing features that could be construed as gambling, opting instead for alternative monetization models that prioritize player engagement and satisfaction while remaining compliant with applicable laws and regulations.

Moving Forward

As the gaming industry continues to evolve, it’s clear that the legal landscape surrounding gaming mechanics and monetization strategies will remain a topic of significant interest and debate. The Big Fish lawsuit serves as a reminder of the importance of compliance with gambling laws and the potential consequences of failing to adequately address legal risks in game development. Read more about big fish lawsuit