A Sony PlayStation lawsuit from 2022 is now moving forward, as the company faces accusations of unfair practices with regard to its PlayStation store purchases. According to Reuters, the gaming behemoth must face up to claims that the PlayStation store prices have been unfairly adjusted for customers, who have had to spend more than necessary on games and add-ons made available by the company. Sony Interactive Entertainment is being sued by consumer advocate Alex Neill, who is standing in as representative of the nearly 9 million people who have made PlayStation store purchases in the UK. If Sony PlayStation is sued successfully, it could cost the company 7.9 billion dollars, or 6.3 billion pounds to be more accurate.
Sony generated more than $82 billion in annual revenue in 2022, with approximately one-third of its income coming from its game and network segment. “In the second fiscal quarter of 2023, approximately 67 percent of Sony Corporation’s PlayStation gaming sales were generated via digital downloads,” according to Statista.
Breaking Down the Sony PlayStation Lawsuit
According to the Reuters report, Alex Neil believes that the PlayStation store has been charging developers and publishers on the store a 30 percent commission, leading to unfairly steep prices for customers. Due to the exclusive availability of digital games and add-ons only via the store, customers have no alternative to PlayStation store purchases, which is believed to be an unfair abuse of the company’s dominant position in the gaming industry. According to the original filings, claimants could see between £67 and £562 each but stacked up for 8.9 million users, it will cost Sony dearly to pay out the lawsuit.
We allege that Sony’s PlayStation customers who purchase digital games and add-on content via their consoles have been paying too much. We allege that Sony’s control of the PlayStation platform has led to detrimental effects for consumers, including stifling innovation and competition and charging higher prices.
—PlayStaton You Owe Us, a web page designed to navigate the lawsuit claim
A London Competition Appeal Tribunal that oversaw the case has allowed it to move ahead, despite the company’s lawyers claiming that the Sony PlayStation lawsuit was “flawed from start to finish” and that it should not be allowed to move ahead. While the Tribunal has allowed the case to continue, it also clarified that the claimants should not include those who made PlayStation store purchases after the case was filed in 2022. As per the original claim, the lawsuit seeks compensation for those who purchased digital games and add-ons between 19 August 2016 to 19 August 2022. This ensures the list does not continue to grow with those seeking a share of the lawsuit winnings if Sony PlayStation is successfully sued.
Fighting Back Against Companies—Sony is Not the Only One Hit This Year
While the Sony PlayStation lawsuit is a fight for the consumers against the store’s monopoly, Epic has been representing the gaming industry’s stand against the monopoly that app store providers like Apple and Google hold today. Similar to the commission behind PlayStation store prices, Apple and Google had also maintained a 30 percent fee for developers who wanted to cater to mobile users, and with no other alternate way to bring apps to this specific market, developers, and publishers had no choice but to pay the app stores. In protest, Epic made a bold move and added an update that would allow users to pay within their Fortnite app and bypass the Store fee. The response was instantaneous and Apple had Fortnite gone from the App Store. Epic Games then turned to legal action against the company.
After considerable back and forth, lots of “Free Fortnite” merch, and switching to an Australian lawsuit in between, Apple finally won the antitrust lawsuit. Epic refuses to back down from the conversation though, and is currently fighting a similar battle against Google that should see an end in December.
The Sony PlayStation lawsuit might have a better chance at a win for affected consumers, and developers will benefit parallel if it goes through. Until then the PlayStation store prices are unlikely to see any changes