U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) has written a letter to Sony CEO Keniciro Yoshida that accuses his company of anticompetitive business practices amid its fight against Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard, something that Sony, ironically, has argued will result in reduced competition in the console space. In the letter dated April 13, Cramer requested for Yoshida to send him more information about Sony’s anticompetitive business practices no later than the end of the month, pointing out the apparent fact that the PlayStation maker has “utterly dominated” the gaming console market for over two decades. Cramer was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2018 after serving three terms as North Dakota’s At-Large Member of the United States House of Representatives and is the first Republican to hold this Senate seat in his lifetime, according to the senator’s About page.
From a Senator Kevin Cramer letter to Sony:
Given the growing significance of the gaming industry to North Dakota, I am troubled by reports Sony appears to leverage its dominance to exclude competition rather than enabling choice for players and developers. According to published reports, Sony controls over 68% of the global market for gaming consoles and a shocking 98% of the Japanese market. Increasingly, it appears Sony’s dominance is attributable to exclusionary practices, including paying game publishers not to distribute their games on rival platforms.
Sony’s anticompetitive conduct has also included lobbying the FTC and competition regulators abroad to oppose Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision, a transaction many legal and gaming industry experts believe would promote a more competitive gaming market. Even more troubling is the fact Sony’s lobbying of the FTC and other regulators began shortly after Sony itself acquired Bungie, another major gaming competitor. Sony’s efforts to block this transaction apparently include a refusal to accept an agreement that fully addresses its concerns and would expand consumers’ access to games.
Sony’s conduct hurts American consumers by leading to higher prices and reduced choice. Importantly, it also constrains economic opportunities for developers, including for small and independent developers. To assure transparency regarding how Sony conducts its business, I ask you please provide unredacted copies of the following information:
- All agreements that provide Sony with an exclusive right to distribute a game developed by an independent publisher;
- All agreements between Sony and a game publisher that prevent the publisher from distributing its games on a rival’s subscription or streaming service;
- All internal company documents describing the strategic rationale for Sony’s acquisition of Bungie, Inc.; and
- All correspondence with any U.S. federal or state government or regulatory agency relating to competition in the video gaming industry.
Please respond in writing along with the requested information no later than May 1, 2023.