The last time we were checking in on the legal tussle over the proposed $69 billion sale of Activision Blizzard, Sony was complaining of “harassment” at the hands of Microsoft, who were asking to see all kinds of records, emails and internal documentation as part of the case’s discovery process.
As Game Developer report, though, the FTC’s chief administrative judge D. Michael Chappell has tossed out most (though not all) of Sony’s complaints, meaning that Microsoft is about to get access to a ton of “relevant documents” that PlayStation didn’t want released, ranging from its anti-trust lawyer’s external emails to a number of Senior Vice President’s documentation to the records of former employees.
Most interestingly, though—and I say this on a personal basis, not because I’m any kind of law fiend—is this from the FTC:
Microsoft argues that the Complaint in this case makes a number of allegations regarding high-performance video game console developers’ exclusivity arrangements with video game publishers. Microsoft states that it is aware that SIE requires many third-party publishers to agree to exclusivity provisions, including preventing the publishers from putting their games on Xbox’s multi-game subscription service, and that understanding the full extent of SIE’s exclusivity arrangements and their effect on industry competitiveness will assist in its defense.
Judge Chappell says this is because “the nature and extent of [Sony’s] content-licensing agreements are relevant to the Complaint’s allegations of exclusivity arrangements between video game console developers and video game developers and publishers.”
In other words, Microsoft is free to dig up how much Sony is paying publishers to keep games off Game Pass, and find out any other details or conditions associated with putting a game on a PlayStation console at the expense of any Xbox platforms or services.
I know corporate stuff is usually incredibly boring as hell, but this is one of the rare exceptions where I think seeing some numbers—and those numbers would surely be made public as part of court hearings—would be fascinating. Seeing games become exclusive, or tied up with conditions, is something that directly affects us as fans and customers. It’d be nice to know just how much money is changing hands to make sure that happens!
Note however that if Microsoft does decide to pursue this, they won’t be publishing an all-time compendium; they’re limited to deals made after January 1, 2019 (to limit the work involved in searching records, mainly), so any revelations would only be able to include exclusivity arrangements made after that date.