Another busy day in court, with the FTC v. Microsoft trial ending tomorrow. It was a surprisingly quiet day compared to some of the days before, with Microsoft chief Satya Nadella giving relatively lighthearted testimony, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick calmly protesting against the FTC’s investigators. yourself and more economic talk.
We also get to briefly see that Nadella and Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley stick together because of their shared love for Candy Crush. interesting.
Exclusively for me, but not for you
Console exclusivity has been part of how video game publishing has worked since the birth of video games. But having heard Xbox and friends recount it over the past few days, everyone in the industry just hates the idea.
People like Microsoft head Satya Nadella and Activision CEO Bobby Kotick today have made exclusivity seem less like a feature but more like a bug, damaging their ability to do business on several platforms. certain platforms and access to larger markets. For example, Nadella mentioned that he was “don’t love” for exclusivity, while Kotick stressed that taking Call of Duty exclusively for Xbox would be “very detrimental” to the business.
All of this is appropriate with Spencer’s opinion. All in all, Xbox and its witnesses and lawyers seem to be making the argument that the whole idea of exclusivity is a loathsome idea they play with because Sony coerced them. If Sony stops paying for exclusives like Final Fantasy XVI, it thinks Xbox won’t have to make deals like it did with Activision just to compete.
It’s also no surprise that the head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Jim Ryan, sang a different tune yesterday in his video deposition. He noted that while he “didn’t like” the Xbox exclusive Redfall and Starfield after acquiring Zenimax, he had “no dispute with it” and do not consider it anticompetitive. Ryan can’t get high on exclusivity when Xbox has shared data in the courtroom that PlayStation exclusivity far exceeds Xbox. Where he draws the line, of course, is in Call of Duty: a franchise so large and successful that (FTC and Sony argue) the very idea of it becoming a monopoly is supposed to trigger irreparable harm to PlayStation.
Right now, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Xbox exclusive Call of Duty doesn’t backfire massively on Xbox. Sony’s much larger loss of market share would significantly cut existing Call of Duty profits and (as many executives have reminded us) the “passion” this hypothetical would ignite in the audience. gamers can do significant damage to the brand. But it’s important to note that Ryan isn’t thinking of a Call of Duty-exclusive Xbox situation next week, month, or year, under very similar market conditions. Instead, Ryan seems to fear the situation really turns around, about the absence of Call of Duty in a hypothetical distant future where the PlayStation, for whatever reason, is already at the bottom, just like the Xbox is now. .
Safely on top of the world, the PlayStation would actually be fine enough without Call of Duty. But Ryan knows that the condition may not last forever. The “panel wars”, produced as online as they can be, really play out with winners and losers. While PlayStation may have confidence in its plans for the next five or even ten years, at some point Ryan worried that Spencer’s Call of Duty promise would expire. And when that happens, if Sony isn’t yet at the top of the console world, then losing Call of Duty could be a disaster.
It makes sense to be vehemently antitrust when monopolies are the tools of winners and you are losing. But the market is unpredictable. There’s no way to guarantee where either competitor will be ten years from now. Ryan seems to believe that if he doesn’t come out on top when those deals expire, Xbox will do to Sony exactly what Sony has done to Xbox for years…or a lot worse. Whether he is true to that belief is up to the court to decide.
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