Sony Sued for Monopolization of PlayStation Store

On Wednesday,  a consumer filed a class-action complaint in the Northern District of California against Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC alleging that Sony violated antitrust and unfair competition laws through its purported monopolization of the digital video games on the PlayStation Store.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff “brings this action on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated Class members who purchased digital video games on Sony’s PlayStation Store (the ‘Class’) between April 1, 2019 and the present.”

The plaintiff claimed that “Sony manufactures PlayStation, a line of video game consoles that launched in 1994 and has become one of the most popular video game systems in the world.” Reportedly, Sony has used the popularity of PlayStation to “build PlayStation into a multinational and multifaceted digital entertainment brand,” including the PlayStation Store, PlayStation Network, PlayStation Now, PlayStation Video, and PlayStation Studios. 

The plaintiff asserted that most of the sales related to PlayStation come from its video games and other content sold on its PlayStation Store and the PlayStation Network.

The plaintiff noted that when PlayStation originally launched in 1994, the games were only available on disks, but now “users can access the PlayStation Store from their console, purchase games, and download them directly to their console through the PlayStation Network.” 

Allegedly, consumers used to be able to “purchase download codes for digital PlayStation games from the same online and brick-and-mortar retailers who sell physical games … The codes could be redeemed on the PlayStation Store for digital copies of PlayStation games.” However, according to the plaintiff, on April 1, 2019, Sony removed “retailers’ ability to sell download codes for digital PlayStation games.” 

The plaintiff proffered that “because delivering digital content to PlayStation consoles requires access to Sony’s PlayStation Network, the new policy established the PlayStation Store as the only source from which consumers can purchase digital PlayStation games, and the only source to which video game publishers can sell digital PlayStation games.” Additionally, the plaintiff contended that Sony mandates that publishers who sell digital games on its PlayStation Store must give up full control over the retail price. Therefore, this policy purportedly “swiftly and effectively foreclosed any and all price competition in the retail market for digital PlayStation games.”

The plaintiff averred that Sony’s policies and restrictions “established a monopoly over the sale of digital PlayStation games.” As a result, Sony was allegedly able to charge supracompetitive prices for digital PlayStation games,” which, according to the plaintiff, “are significantly higher than their physical counterparts sold in a competitive retail market, and significantly higher than they would be in a competitive retail market for digital games.” The plaintiff contended that a price comparison indicates that on average prices on the PlayStation store are approximately 75% higher than disk games, and some times as much as 175% higher. The plaintiff alleged that as a result of Sony’s conduct, the plaintiff and putative class have paid higher than they would have without Sony’s monopoly, thus they have been harmed.

The claims for relief are monopolization and attempted monopolization under Section 2 of The Sherman Act and Section 4 of the Clayton Act; declaratory and injunctive relief under Section 2 of The Sherman Act and Sections 2 and 16 of the Clayton Act; damages under California Unfair Competition Law; and unjust enrichment.

The plaintiff seeks for the case to be maintained as a class action and for the plaintiff to represent the class; an injunction and to permanently enjoin the defendant from further unlawful conduct; an award for damages, costs, fees; pre and post judgment interest; and other relief.

The plaintiff is represented by Westerman Law Corp., Motley Rice LLC, The Law Office of Adrian Campos, Salim-Beasley LLC, and Meade Young LLC.