from the whoops dept
The ongoing saga that is Microsoft’s attempt to purchase Activision Blizzard continues! As a brief review of the scoreboard will show: the EU has approved the purchase, the UK’s CMA has blocked it and Microsoft has appealed that decision, and the lawsuit brought by the FTC in the States is currently in the pretrial phase. Last we checked in on the FTC suit, Sony’s Jim Ryan gave a deposition in which he claimed that if the purchase was allowed, that Sony might not share information about any future consoles with Microsoft-owned developers like Activision Blizzard out of fear that Microsoft would use that information, critical to giving developers information needed to make games for those future consoles, in ways that Sony wouldn’t like. In that post, I made clear that this was a bad look for Sony, which has several first-party titles on the Xbox, given its anticompetitive nature in a lawsuit that the FTC is bringing on grounds of the merger being anti-competition.
Now it appears that Microsoft has thrown something of a lifeline to Sony on that front. In a recent pretrial filing from Microsoft, in which it makes the argument that Sony and the FTC are too limited in the consoles that they claim compete with the Xbox series of consoles, Microsoft sure seems confident in the next few consoles Sony plans to release.
In a section of the document tantalizingly subtitled “The Console Market Must Include Nintendo,” Microsoft is taking issue with the FTC’s position that Xbox and PlayStation are in a two-horse race because “they are offered at a similar price.” This, they say, is “unpersuasive,” on the basis of previous Supreme Court rulings (uh-oh), but also that the FTC’s analysis “considers only the high-end models of Xbox (Series X) and PlayStation (standard edition), thereby ignoring the differentiation within Xbox’s console lines.” They make the point that a Series S and a Switch cost the same, and their budget model is fifty bucks less than a Switch OLED.
But then, with a canny dismissiveness, they throw in at the end of the paragraph:
PlayStation likewise sells a less expensive Digital Edition for $399.99, and is expected to release a PlayStation 5 Slim later this year at the same reduced price point.
Now, to be clear, there is a lot of speculation about this already out there in the wild. So it wouldn’t be out of the realm of the reasonable for Microsoft to be simply speculating on a Slim version of the PS5 being on the docket, similar to what Sony did with the PS4.
On the other hand:
The line comes with a footnote adding, “Sony is also anticipated to release a handheld version of the PlayStation 5 later this year for under $300.”
This would be Sony’s Project Q, for which they’ve revealed almost nothing, let alone a street date or price!
There has been some speculation about the handheld as well, but not because it follows the format of previously released PlayStation consoles and their progression to other versions. This very much looks like Microsoft outing Sony’s plans for a next generation series of consoles, including a handheld, which aren’t currently on offer. Press speculation aside, putting this in a court filing when that information isn’t officially public is quite a choice.
And, either way, the optics of this are terrible. At best, it’s Microsoft using a court filing to undercut Sony’s release announcements for future consoles, which isn’t great. At worst, it’s Microsoft tipping its hand that it already has some inside information on these future consoles, possibly from the Zenimax acquisition, which goes some lengths to bolstering Sony’s concerns about how Microsoft is going to use information about future consoles should Sony share that information with them.
You just have to love a gaming industry story where everyone is the bad guy.