Wednesday, 31 May 2023 09:14

As Microsoft Deal Slows, Sony Now Under Investigation for Market Abuse

Written by

Reading time is around minutes.

There is no such thing as a coincidence, especially in the business world. If you hear of something and the timing seems suspicious, it is because someone pushed something in the right direction at the right time. This is the case that we see here with Sony now being under investigation by the Romanian Competition Council for possible market abuse at a time when Microsoft is trying to gain a market advantage. If this news does not seem odd to you, you might not be paying attention.

The story timeline goes something like this. In 2019 Sony stopped selling digital download codes through third party vendors. They continued to allow you to buy gift cards for the PlayStation Store, but you could not simply buy the digital game outside of the PlayStation Store. This is still the practice with the PS5 being released in 2020 and to the present day. The concern is that Sony can set the prices of their games by controlling access to them via the PlayStation Store. Personally, I find the logic a bit suspicious as even if they allowed third party resellers of the download codes, Sony would still set the price of the game. Nintendo and Xbox do the same thing with their game offerings that you can buy at GameStop, Walmart etc. Each game company sets the price for the game on their respective console and the resellers follow that guidance. It is the same thing for the official hardware (controllers etc.).

Still, it is understandable to have concerns and there have been a couple of lawsuits filed. One in 2021 was dismissed as the complaint failed to show the move was made to control pricing. One filed in 2022 is still pending. Now though to see an actual government entity looking into it is unusual. The Romanian Competition Council used the logic that because Sony is limiting sales of PlayStation Compatible games to their store it will discourage Romanian Developers from developing PlayStation games for a console, they admit, is the preferred console is an odd leap in logic. It would fly in the face of how most things work in terms of development. A game studio is going to want their game played by the most people possible so they will develop for that platform (and multiples if possible). Just because the game is only available via the PlayStation store would not really be an influence from what I know of game development. Yet here we are.

Now the same council did not find any reason to stop the Microsoft deal with Activision/Blizzard despite it giving Microsoft a massive advantage in the console market in terms of titles and IP. So why the increased pressure on Sony? After all, even if they move to have them sell digital download codes in third party stores, they still control the root game price in the same way Microsoft and Nintendo do. To me there are two options here; either they are doing this to appear fair in the face of approving the Microsoft Deal, or they are doing this to impact Sony in a potentially negative way in a market dominated by Sony to give Microsoft some breathing room. I have a feeling it is the former and that very little will change after this investigation. It is a small enough market when viewed globally that it will not hurt Sony much if they must make a change there. It does give the press something negative to write about Sony at a time when they might be impacted by a deal which would give Microsoft an advantage in the global market as well. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Read 1007 times

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.