Sony Ordered To Reveal Third-Party Exclusivity Deals As Part Of FTC's Activision Blizzard Buyout Lawsuit
A Federal Trade Commission judge has mostly denied Sony's request to not produce documents subpoenaed by Microsoft.
Sony will need to produce all of its documents related to third-party deals from 2019 to the present, despite the company's attempts to have the request thrown out, a Federal Trade Commission judge has ruled.
Microsoft subpoenaed copies of every Sony third-party licensing agreement from 2012 to the present, as well as documents and communications related to Sony Interactive Entertainment president Jim Ryan's declaration to the FTC. This comes as part of its defense-building process ahead of the FTC's lawsuit against Microsoft regarding its attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard in a $69 billion deal.
Sony argued that such a request had no value and that producing the documents would be a burden. Sony also requested to not produce files handled by specific Sony employees, with the argument being that some of those documents were in Japanese and would be too difficult to search through.
A judge denied both of those requests in a newly filed order, but did limit the scope of Microsoft's document request. Sony will only need to produce documents from 2019 forward.
Microsoft has argued that since many of the FTC's concerns about the Activision Blizzard acquisition stem from the effect such a deal would have on exclusivity deals and competition in the video game industry, it is important to know the extent Sony's own deals have on the industry as well. Based on the judge's ruling, it seems the FTC agrees.
Sony, along with other players in the industry, has spoken out against Microsoft's planned acquisition, saying the theoretical removal of major Activision Blizzard franchises like Call of Duty from Sony's PlayStation platform would cause harm to the industry, reduce competition, and give an unfair advantage to Microsoft's Xbox platform. The PlayStation maker has put special emphasis on Call of Duty in particular, which makes it worth nothing that Sony has for years partnered with Activision Blizzard to bring exclusive Call of Duty content and benefits to those playing the blockbuster franchise on PlayStation platforms. Sony currently has exclusively-deals in place for multiple titles, including Square Enix's Final Fantasy XVI.
In an attempt to ease regulator concerns, Microsoft has made a commitment to keeping Call of Duty available on other platforms for up to 10 years, but Sony has so far refused to sign a contract that would make such a deal a reality and the two companies are reportedly "not close" to coming to terms. Microsoft and Nintendo recently announced a 10-year deal that would see Microsoft bring Call of Duty to Nintendo-owned platforms in the years ahead, should the deal go through.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer, for his part, has downplayed the importance of Call of Duty to the Activision Blizzard deal, instead emphasizing the importance of Activision Blizzard's mobile game business in recent interviews.
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