Sponsored By

US congress calls for intervention on PlayStation's "monopoly" on Japan

After months of warning about Microsoft's potential exclusivity practices, Sony now finds itself called out for how it does business in Japan's game market.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

March 28, 2023

2 Min Read
Blue logo for Sony's PlayStation console.

Members of US Congress are reportedly looking into the PlayStation console's dominance in Japan. Per a recent report from Axios, members from both political parties are calling on the Biden administration to address the Sony console's supposed monopoly over Xbox. 

Last week, Washington's Democratic senator Maria Cantwell, along with two House members, expressed concern that Sony's made it hard for US companies to compete. Reportedly, Sony has secured all of Japan's high-end console market, and may have done so through business practices that violate US-Japan trade deals. 

For context, Xbox consoles have historically not sold well over in Japan. While Sony and Nintendo have a home field advantage in Japan, Microsoft has consistently struggled in that part of the world, whether it's due to a lack of titles that appeal to Japanese players or different factors entirely.

Per Axios' copy of the letter sent to US Trade representative Katherine Tai, PlayStation has secured deals with the express intent of isolating hit Japanese games. That's reportedly led to "real impacts for Microsoft and the many U.S. game developers and publishers that sell globally, but see their earnings in Japan depressed by these practices."

That trade agreement between the US and Japan went into affect in 2019, and has called for the countries to enable "non-discriminatory treatment of digital products" such as games.

Sony's own business practices are now under Congress' radar

That Sony is now under the spotlight of US regulators isn't a coincidence, something Axios also notes. The PlayStation maker has spent months pushing back hard against Microsoft's attempted acquisition of Activision Blizzard, claiming that should it go through, it would lose out on a prime third-party revenue stream

It doesn't appear that Microsoft intends to rally the same fervor against Sony, but Axios did learn the Xbox creator discussed the issue with Congress. A spokesperson for Xbox told the outlet it "welcomes further investigation to ensure a level playing field in the video game industry."

To Microsoft's point, Sony does have a history of locking down exclusives; it's the only reason that Ghostwire Tokyo and Deathloop were on the PlayStation 5. Likewise, that kind of exclusivity is why neither Final Fantasy 7 Remake or Final Fantasy XVI appear to be coming to Xbox anytime soon.

At the same time, both companies are consistently beaten by Nintendo in terms of sheer sales figures. It's not quite as black-and-white as Congress would paint the situation, but Sony is far from the only competition Microsoft has in Japan.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like