Sony could be forced to detail PlayStation exclusivity deals and how much it pays for “blocking rights” to keep games on rival services like Xbox Game Pass. The FTC sued to try and block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition and began a legal discovery process with Microsoft sending subpoenas to Sony to compel it to reveal records, internal documentation, and emails from of the company’s PlayStation unit.
Kotaku found that FTC chief administrative judge D. Michael Chappell has now sided with Microsoft’s request for details of Sony’s exclusive PlayStation deals. The request covers deals made after January 1, 2019, including payments or agreements that prevent publishers from putting games on Xbox Game Pass. The judge’s decision comes after Microsoft previously accused Sony of paying for “restriction rights” to prevent developers from adding their content to Xbox Game Pass.
Here is Microsoft’s latest claim, summed up in Judge Chappell’s words:
Microsoft argues that the Complaint in this case makes several allegations about exclusive arrangements between high-performance video game console developers and video game publishers. Microsoft stated that it was aware that the SIE required many third-party publishers to agree to exclusivity provisions, including preventing publishers from placing their games on Xbox’s multi-game subscription service, and the understanding the full range of SIE exclusivity arrangements and their impact on industry competition will help to defend them.
“The nature and extent of SIE’s content licensing agreements are relevant to the Complaint’s allegations of exclusive arrangements between video game console developers and video game developers and publishers,” Judge said. Chappell.
Microsoft also tried to obtain details of Sony’s deals dating back to 2012, but Judge Chappell labeled it “excessive,” and granted Sony’s request to limit the available time for document requests to 2019. .
It’s rare for the details of such exclusive deals to be made public, but the FTC case could open up some of the games industry’s secrets in court hearings. The last time we saw similar details revealed in a court case was Epic Games vs. Apple in 2021. That case showed how Microsoft is considering reducing its Xbox store cut to shake the console game, how to implement Sony’s cross-play platform payment, and that Fortnite a PS4 cash cow.
The FTC case is still in the document discovery phase, with an evidentiary hearing scheduled for August 2, so it’s still months away from seeing any potential new details.
Either way, Microsoft’s Activision deal is likely to be approved by EU regulators. The combination of a binding 10-year agreement with Nintendo to bring Call of Duty of Nintendo platforms and a similar deal with Nvidia has reportedly convinced the European Commission to approve the acquisition. Microsoft still faces scrutiny from UK and US regulators though, with Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) offering possible remedies last month that include forcing Microsoft to sell its Activision Blizzard business. relating to Call of Duty.