Following a controversial email last week, in which PlayStation boss Jim Ryan asked staff to "respect differences of opinion" on abortion rights, a new report has claimed Sony is currently refusing to approve any statements its PlayStation studios might want to make on the topic of reproductive rights in response to the US Supreme Court's proposal to reverse the ruling of Roe v Wade, with Insomniac head Ted Price going as far as to tell staff he believed there would be "material repercussions" if it went against Sony's wishes.
According to a new report by The Washington Post, Spider-Man and Ratchet & Clank developer Insomniac, which was acquired by Sony in 2020, had made the decision to donate $50,000 USD to the Women's Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP) following the US Supreme Court's recent proposal to reverse Roe v Wade, a key judgement which legalised abortion across the country - a donation Sony has agreed to match, along with any additional donations from staff, as part of company's "PlayStation Cares" programme.
However, according to the Washington Post, Sony won't authorise any public statement Insomniac might want to make about reproductive rights or its donation, and staff have been expressly forbidden from mentioning either Sony or Insomniac in any retweet should the WRRAP choose to make an announcement about the donation. "[Sony Interactive Entertainment] will not approve ANY statements from any studio on the topic of reproductive rights," Insomniac head Ted Price told studio employees in an email dated 13th May. "We fought hard for this and we did not win.”
Price was responding to earlier requests from Insomniac employees that management make a public statement in support of women's reproductive rights similar to those shared Destiny 2 developer Bungie and Psychonauts 2 creator Double Fine, following the recent US Supreme Court news.
Price went on to warn staff he believed "there would be material repercussions for us as a wholly owned subsidiary" if the studio chose to go against Sony's wishes. "Among other things, any progress that we might make in helping change [Sony Interactive Entertainment's] approach would be stopped dead in its tracks," he explained. "We'd also probably be severely restricted from doing important public-facing work in the future.”
Price's reference to helping change Sony's approach appears to relate to a "near-60 page" document Insomniac reportedly submitted to PlayStation Studios head Hermen Hulst following Jim Ryan's controversial email. The document is said to have contained messages from Insomniac employees urging PlayStation leadership - Ryan, in particular - to "do better by employees who are directly affected."
Ryan drew considerably ire last week when, after referencing the recent US Supreme Court proposal to overturn Row v Wade in an all-staff email, employees were told, "We owe it to each other and to PlayStation's millions of users to respect differences of opinion among everyone in our internal and external communities." Ryan reportedly then went on to write at length about his cats' birthdays, leading some employees to accuse the PlayStation boss of being disrespectful and trivialising the issue of reproductive rights in messages seen by Bloomberg.
"As far as our freedom of speech goes," Price continued in response to an employee question around whether Sony's acquisition of Insomniac was now impacting the studio's values, "while we do have a LOT of autonomy that often gets taken for granted, there are times where we need to acknowledge we're part of a larger organisation. For the most part our ability to tweet has been unfettered. However there are rare times when we’re in opposition (like this week) and SIE will have the final say."
While Sony is seemingly steadfast in its refusal to make any public statement regarding reproductive rights, the Washington Post reports the company is being more accommodating behind the scenes. It says Sony is currently formulating, in conjunction with Insomniac, an initiative to provide financial assistance to any employee that may need to travel to a different state to receive reproductive care.