Consumers are attacking Sony in class action for banning the sale of download codes for its games two years ago by third-party sellers. According to the complainants, players pay on average 175% more for their games in digital versions.
Consumers are suing Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC, the console and video game arm of Sony, for practicing an illegal monopoly. They accuse them of restricting the sale of PlayStation games to its only store.
In this class action filed in California, gamers refer to Sony withdrawing permission from third-party resellers (including Amazon, Best Buy Co, or Walmart) to sell download codes for PlayStation games two years ago.
Consoles without discs in the balance
As a result, Sony’s Playstation Store would have become the only source for digital versions of its titles, add the complainants. “Sony’s monopoly allows it to apply prices out of any competition on these dematerialized games, which are much more expensive than their physical versions sold in a competitive market”, indicates the consumers behind the collective action. The complaint considers that players are required to pay 175% more for a downloaded game than for its physical version.
This is a fairly common problem in the industry, which has become even more acute since Sony and Microsoft both offered models of their new consoles without disc drives, with the PS5 Digital Edition and the Xbox. Series S.
Let us point out all the same that the argument of competition which would make it possible to lower the prices of the plays is only verified very little in reality. In the case of Nintendo games, for example, for which download codes can be found quite easily on Amazon, the prices charged by third-party resellers are often the same as those available on the Nintendo eShop. Again, this results in boxed games that generally cost around 45 euros, where the price for game download codes is often 60 euros, despite the competition.
Monopoly lawsuits are on the rise
For some time now, monopoly lawsuits have been on the rise in the tech world, and in particular around Apple. The apple brand is being sued in the United States by game developer and retailer Epic Games, which accuses it of banning competition from its App Store. This would allow him to apply a 30% commission on all purchases. We also think of Spotify which is suing Apple, this time in Europe, for its commission applied to premium subscriptions within the App Store, which would artificially inflate prices. There too, we can perhaps speak of a monopoly, because it is impossible for users to bypass the App Store, unlike what is practiced on the Google Play Store.
Whenever there is a question of monopoly lawsuits, the whole question is to define what a market is, to know whether there is a monopoly or not. In the case of the PlayStation 5, if we take the video game market as a whole as a benchmark, then there is no exclusive position, since Sony faces a large number of competitors there. On the other hand, we can also consider that PlayStation games can only run on Sony machines, and that therefore, they belong to a market of their own. So, if Sony is the only seller in this market, the expression monopoly appears correct. This battle of definitions of a market, that will be the stake of the trial, if the plaintiffs and Sony do not find an amicable agreement before that.