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2023-04-15 reads: category:GamingNews

US Senator asks Sony CEO to reveal PlayStation's game exclusivity deals

A US Senator has written an open letter to Sony‘s CEO requesting information on the company’s game exclusivity deals.

North Dakota Republican Senator Kevin Cramer says he sent the letter to Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida “regarding its anti-competitive behavior and to request information on the company’s acquisition agreements”.

In the letter (originally spotted by Axios), Cramer tells Yoshida that he is writing “to express concern about Sony’s efforts to protect its gaming console business from competition”.

He goes on to claim: “I am concerned Sony’s dominance of that market, and its efforts to perpetuate its current position imperils an important economic development opportunity for North Dakota.”

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Cramer states that North Dakota has “developed a strategy to lead the nation in computer science and cybersecurity education”, and that “preparing students for careers in gaming is an important component of this effort”.

“Given the growing significance of the gaming industry to North Dakota,” Cramer says, “I am troubled by reports Sony appears to leverage its cominance to exclude competition rather than enabling choice for players and developers.”

He adds: “Increasingly, it appears Sony’s dominance is attributable to exclusionary practices, including paying game publishers not to distribute thieir games on rival platforms.”

He goes on to claim that Sony’s attempt to oppose Microsoft‘s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard is an example of its “anticompetitive conduct”, saying it’s “even more troubling” that “Sony’s lobbying of the FTC and other regulators began shortly after Sony itself acquired Bungie.”

Cramer ends his letter by asking Yoshida for unredacted copies of:

  • all agreements that give Sony an exclusive right to distribute a third-party game
  • all agreements between Sony and third-party publishers that prevent them from releasing their games on other systems
  • all internal company documents “describing the strategic rational” for Sony’s decision to acquire Bungie
  • all correspondence with US government or regulatory agencies relating to video game competition.

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Cramer’s letter makes him the latest US member of Congress to accuse Sony of engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.

Last month two letters – one from four Republican members of Congress, the other from six Democrats – accused Sony of deliberately making exclusivity deals with third-party publishers to ensure Xbox doesn’t gain a foothold in Japan.

The letters called on US trade representative Katherine Tai and commerce secretary Gina Raimondo to raise the issue with Japan during trade talks.

US members of Congress accuse Sony of ‘blatant anti-competitive conduct’ in Japan

US members of Congress accuse Sony of ‘blatant anti-competitive conduct’ in Japan

They claim Sony's exclusivity deals are designed to keep Japanese games off Xbox

Both letters claimed that by not acting on these alleged anti-competitive practices, Japan is effectively putting a US company (Microsoft) at a disadvantage.

Sony has secured a number of third-party titles as PlayStation console exclusives over the years, some of which have come from Japanese publishers. One of the most notable examples of this is the company’s ties with Square Enix, which have seen Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy XVI excluded from Xbox.

Another key example from last generation was Capcom‘s Street Fighter V, which has remained exclusive to PS4 and PC ever since its release in 2016.

As Axios notes, Microsoft has previously confirmed that its government affairs team has discussed Sony’s conduct with members of Congress, which may explain the timing of these political accusations aimed at Sony.