Game on for Sony digital game purchasers
On May 5, 2021, Motley Rice filed the nation’s first proposed antitrust class action against Sony concerning PlayStation® digital games. The Complaint alleges that Sony engaged in anticompetitive conduct by eliminating the sale of digital PlayStation games through retailers in order to force consumers to exclusively purchase digital PlayStation games at higher prices from the Sony PlayStation Store. Motley Rice was appointed Lead Counsel for plaintiffs and, on February 7, 2023, defeated a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Sony’s PlayStation 5 launched in November 2020 and was released in two varieties: the $499 Base Model and the $399 Digital Edition. Like earlier editions, the Base Model has an optical disk drive that allows users to play games on physical disks and to also play downloaded digital games from the PlayStation store. The less expensive Digital Edition, however, plays only digital games.
For years, Sony allowed Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart to sell download codes for digital PlayStation games which could be redeemed on the PlayStation Store. However, the Plaintiffs allege that, in anticipation of the PlayStation 5’s release, Sony decided to terminate its relationship with third-party retailers in order to control the market for digital PlayStations games. In doing so, the complaint alleges that Sony eliminated all competition in the $17 b market in order to obtain supracompetitive profits in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law. The Complaint also alleges that Sony took no reasonable steps to inform PlayStation 5 console owners or potential purchases of its decision to prevent retailers from selling digital PlayStation games, thereby “locking in” consumers to purchase digital games exclusively from the PlayStation Store.
In its motion to dismiss, Sony argued that Plaintiffs failed to properly allege that the sale of digital games was profitable under Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp., 472 U.S. 585 (1985). Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg found that the complaint alleges sufficient facts, and that the potential alternative rationales Sony presented constitute “an affirmative defense and question of fact,” better suited for determination at a later stage of litigation.
If you purchased a PlayStation 5 Digital Edition console or digital PlayStation games from Sony’s PlayStation Store after April 1, 2019, you may be a member of the class. For more information you may contact Motley Rice antitrust attorney Michael M. Buchman by email.