Sony Asks N.D. Cal. to Toss Gamer Buyers’ Antitrust Suit

Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC filed a motion to dismiss late last week arguing that the plaintiff class of PlayStation Store video game purchasers have not and cannot plead viable antitrust claims. The plaintiffs, per Sony, “stack together two of the most disfavored theories in antitrust law—the single-brand market and a compelled duty to work with competitors—to make out a monopolization claim,” the Rule 12(b)(6) motion claims.

The case dates back to May 2021 when the plaintiffs sued on behalf of all who bought PlayStation Store digital video games beginning on April 1, 2019, the date when Sony allegedly changed its game distributorship policy by removing other retailers’ ability to sell download codes for digital PlayStation games. The plaintiffs argue that by doing so, Sony effectively foreclosed price competition on game sales while securing its own ability to charge supracompetitive prices. The lawsuit states claims under the Sherman Act, the Clayton Act, and analogous California law and seeks treble damages.

Now, Sony says that the plaintiffs’ “platform monopolization” theory falls flat, as demonstrated by other recent decisions in cases like Epic Games v. Apple. The motion says that contrary to the plaintiffs’ assertions, Sony competes vigorously with Microsoft and Nintendo to sell games and consoles, and as such, the relevant market cannot be limited to Sony’s own game selling platform.

The company also defends that it has not done nothing to transgress the antitrust laws. “Slapping conclusory antitrust labels on Sony’s everyday distribution decisions is not enough to declare Sony an illegal monopolist and force a judicial restructuring of its business model, as Plaintiffs wish,” the motion says.

Lastly, Sony asserts that the plaintiffs have failed to plead any anticompetitive effects or injury stemming from the challenged conduct. The allegations that it charges supracompetitive prices are wholly unsupported, the motion argues.

The dismissal hearing is scheduled for May 22 before Judge Richard Seeborg.

Sony is represented by Shearman & Sterling LLP and the plaintiffs by interim lead counsel Motley Rice LLC and also Westerman Law Corp., Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman PLLC, Joseph Saveri Law Firm LLP.