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Controversial Xbox content policy is legal

Microsoft is within EU competition law.

Sony might not like it but Microsoft's Xbox 360 content submission and release policy is in accordance with EU competition regulations, according to a legal expert.

Last week, Sony's senior VP of publisher relations Rob Dyer attacked Microsoft for its allegedly restrictive third party policy that demands all games released on the Xbox 360 have "at least" the same amount of content as they do on other systems.

Games lawyer Jas Purewal argues that its behaviour is within the law, despite claims by some that it constitutes anti-competitive activity.

He explained in a post on his Gamer/Law blog that Microsoft would only risk being in breach of EU competition law if it was "in a dominant market position" and guilty of "abusing that position".

"It seems generally acknowledged that none of the three main console manufacturers are in a dominant market position and therefore the terms on which they agree to make games available on their consoles seem unlikely to be a matter for competition regulators," he wrote.

"It's also worth bearing in mind that it's fairly standard for all the console manufacturers to have some form of restrictions regarding their developer partners' relationships with rival console manufacturers (though the level of those restrictions may change from time to time)."

Dyer had argued that Microsoft's policy denies multi-platform developers the right to exploit the PlayStation 3's high-end features, in doing so restricting Sony from offering customers potentially innovative content.

"EU competition law exists to ensure a level playing field between competing businesses," noted Purewal. "It isn't there to ensure the consumer always gets the best deal (ideally that's the conclusion of a good competition law system, but it's not guaranteed)."

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Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.