Skip to main content

Sony boss Jim Ryan doesn't like Starfield exclusivity, but doesn't deem it anti-competitive

And more from Microsoft vs FTC court case.

PlayStation head Jim Ryan has admitted that, while he does not like Starfield being an Xbox console exclusive, he doesn't consider it to be anti-competitive.

Microsoft's court battle with US antitrust agency the FTC continued last night, with testimony from Ryan. During a pre-recorded video regarding Microsoft's ongoing bid to purchase Activision Blizzard, the exec shared further insight on the takeover, and the impact it could have on Sony.

Starfield Direct – Gameplay Deep Dive.Watch on YouTube

When asked directly if he had any issues with Redfall or Starfield being exclusive, Ryan replied: "I don't like it but it's not anti-competitive" (thanks, IGN)

He did add, however, that he initially expected these releases not to be exclusive as "pretty much every other Bethesda game had been multiplatform" prior to Microsoft's acquisition of Bethesda in 2021.

Starfield releases on Xbox Series X/S and PC later this year.

Ryan previously revealed he originally believed the merger "was not an Xbox exclusivity play".

In an email dated 20th January, 2022, the exec wrote: "They're thinking bigger than that, and they have the cash to make moves like this. I've spent a fair bit of time with both Phil [Spencer, boss of Xbox] and Bobby [Kotick, boss of Activision Blizzard] over the past day. I'm pretty sure we will continue to see COD on PS for many years to come".

However, he stated last night that his view changed after an email exchange with Spencer in August 2022.

The contents of this exchange, and what exactly caused this change of view, remain a mystery for now, but Ryan said it "set the alarm bells ringing" for Sony.

"We believe that Microsoft intends to use Call of Duty to disadvantage PlayStation in terms of the availability or the manner in which the game is made available on PlayStation consoles, and to drive PlayStation gamers to the Xbox platforms, specifically Game Pass," he shared.

When asked to quantify the harm to Sony if this transaction goes through, Ryan stated: "I think the harm to SIE arises from gamers deserting our platform and going to Xbox. So it goes way behind the narrow contribution that those gamers spend on Call of Duty itself.

"It would affect spending on hardware, accessories, subscription services, and games."

Ryan said he believes Microsoft could use Call of Duty to "damage" Sony if the deal goes through, and that even a partial foreclosure (timed exclusivity) would be harmful for business (thanks, TweakTown).

"It would deliver a degraded performance on our platform," Ryan stated.

Microsoft could use Call of Duty to "damage" Sony.

Ryan also touched on Game Pass, Microsoft's subscription service (which incidentally, is seeing a price hike in the coming months). The Sony head stated that publishers "unanimously do not like Game Pass" because it is "value destructive".

"Microsoft appears to be losing a lot of money on it," Ryan said, adding that its business model "appears to have some challenges". This is perhaps an odd comment from the Sony exec, considering PlayStation Plus runs in the same way.

Ryan went on to state that Sony has never approached Activision about adding any new versions of Call of Duty to its PlayStation Plus subscription service. This is because the company "knew Bobby [Kotick, Activision Blizzard boss] had been very public and very vocal that he did not see that as a route he wanted to take Activision Blizzard down."

Sony knew Kotick would never consider COD on PS Plus.

Speaking of Call of Duty, Ryan said he believes Activision's shooter does not perform well on Nintendo consoles because it is aimed towards a "very different audience than the standard Nintendo audience that enjoys Mario and Zelda".

The exec reiterated that Nintendo is not Sony's direct competitor.

Nintendo has a differnt audience to Microsoft and Sony.

Elsewhere in the testimony, Ryan said the Xbox brand is more popular in the US than other areas. This is something he attributed to Microsoft's 'shooter' offerings.

"The majority of their games, many of their games, involve an element of shooting. And many of their games involve elements of online multiplayer, both of which typically are more popular in the US than they are outside of the US," he said.

He also added that demand for Xbox Series consoles is "strong", and he believes sales have performed well since their launch in 2020.

"Like [PlayStation], they have been troubled by supply shortages as we understand, but demand for their products is robust in the United States," he stated.

Earlier in the trial, Microsoft said it had "lost the console wars".

The Sony exec also revealed the company would not provide developer kits for future consoles to Activision should this deal go through.

"We simply could not run the risk of a company that was owned by our direct competitor having access to that information," Ryan said.

"That information could leak into other parts of Microsoft and potentially allow them to be able to develop similar features to the ones that we would argue that we invented."

Providing Sony developer kits to Activision could be a risk if this deal goes through, Ryan believes.

The trial continues later today.

Read this next