There are so many issues that Congress could be focusing on right now. Banking regulations following SVB’s collapse, for example. Or helping Americans who struggle with basic living expenses. Maybe they could be working on a long-overdue fix of our broken healthcare system. Instead, they’re very concerned about the possibility that Japan is being unfair to American companies such as Microsoft. Now both Democrats and Republicans are sending letters to top Biden officials asking them to tell Japan to give Xbox a bigger share of their market.
Originally reported by Axios, 10 members of Congress signed two letters addressed to the U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. “Today, we write to bring to your attention the imbalanced Japanese video game market, which we are concerned may be a result of a discriminatory trade practice that could violate the spirit of the U.S.-Japan Digital Trade Agreement,” said the Republican letter. It also reiterated the claim that Sony has 98% of the console market in Japan, and that it makes exclusive arrangements to keep popular games from Xbox.
This 98% of the console market claim excludes PC, Nintendo, and mobile games. In 2020, the Nintendo Switch accounted for 87% of consoles sold in Japan. And every video game distributor pays for exclusivity deals—which is something that sitting representatives should probably know about video games before trying to push for foreign trade policies. To support their somewhat confusing claims, the letter cites an article from GamingSmart—a “gaming content publisher that provides sensitivity calculators and other gaming-related content” that only has 32 followers on Twitter.
The letter by Democratic representatives said that Japan’s policy of “non-prosecution” towards Sony is hurting U.S. exports. “Such policies also can distort trade in the United States and third countries by providing monopoly rents at home that can be leveraged for competition abroad,” said the letter. Again, they’re talking about a business practice conducted by every major games distributor in the world. Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, etc. etc.
Kotaku reached out to the offices of Tai and Raimondo, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
This weird push to help Microsoft is interesting since it’s about an entirely different country’s antitrust laws. Meanwhile, the U.S. is in shambles. Can we get a little universal healthcare? Maybe forgive everyone’s student loans? Can we put some regulations on the finance fuckos who played around with government bonds? No? Well, carry on then.