A US Senator has accused Japan's government of allowing Sony to get away with "blatant anti-competitive conduct" through "exclusive deals and payments to game publishers", claiming that's partly why Sony has a "monopoly" on the high-end game market on its home turf. It's the latest chapter in the console giant's public feud with Microsoft over its attempt to purchase Activision Blizzard, and it's led to a collective online 'huh'in response.
As Politico reports, as part of a recent Senate finance committee hearing, Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell criticised Sony's "monopoly" control of the high-end gaming market before calling on a trade representative to press Japan on the issue.
"I'm told that Sony controls a monopoly of 98% of the high-end game market, yet Japan's government has allowed Sony to engage in blatant anti-competitive conduct through exclusive deals and payments to game publishers," Cantwell says.
Cantwell goes on to accuse Japan's Fair Trade Commission of failing to investigate these "exclusionary conducts" before asking a trade representative what can be done to address these issues better and "create a level playing field with the [Indo-Pacific Economic Framework] on something as important as this issue?" The answer given, in short, is that it's being looked into.
Now, there are a few things to unpick here. When Cantwell refers to "a monopoly of 98% of the high-end game market", that doesn't include Nintendo, PC, or mobile. Last year, America's Federal Trade Commission coined the 'high-performance console' market definition, which can essentially boot Nintendo from conversations between PlayStation and Xbox. It can make the framing of specific discussions feel disingenuous, which is the vibe on social media following the news.
"I hope this isn't real," one Twitter user says. "The argument that Sony has a monopoly of the console market in Japan is ridiculous! Most people in Japan are not interested in "high-end consoles" only. You can not remove the Switch from the console market in Japan! Very ignorant viewpoint if real IMO!"
As another person points out on Twitter, Cantwell has received plenty of support from Microsoft employees over the years regarding campaign funding.
As for Microsoft's deal to snap up Activision Blizzard, it continues to rumble on. Sony says the Xbox creator could give it a deliberately sabotaged version of Call of Duty over exclusivity concerns, whereas Microsoft is handing out Call of Duty agreements with just about anyone at this point.
Confused? here's the Xbox Activision deal explained.