Lawyer blasts Sony for ‘misleading’ marketing of Horizon’s free PS5 upgrade

A lawyer has criticized Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) for what it considers to be deceptive and potentially illegal marketing practices related to Horizon Forbidden West.

The practices questioned by Hoeg Law attorney Richard Hoeg focus on Sony’s commitment to offer players who purchase the PS4 version of the game a free upgrade to the PS5 version.

Sony’s messaging around the deal has been heavily criticized for a long time, though recent decisions by the company have prompted further scrutiny of the game’s release in the weeks leading up to its Friday release.

Horizon Forbidden West – Cinematic Trailer | PS5, PS4

As a reminder, Sony announced Horizon Forbidden West for PS5 in June 2020 before confirming a PS4 version three months later.

Talk to The Washington Post At the time of the PS4 version’s reveal, SIE CEO Jim Ryan said “no one should be disappointed” with the cross-gen game announcements.

“The PS5 versions of these games are designed from the ground up to take advantage of the PS5 feature set, and we have an upgrade path for PS4 users to get the PS5 versions for free,” he said. he declares. “It’s about people having a choice. I’m really happy with the situation.

However, a year later, when detailing the different editions of Horizon Forbidden West, Sony said “dual entitlement does not apply to standard and special editions” of the game, meaning players would only get a free upgrade than if they bought more expensive versions.

Given Ryan’s previous statements, the news was not well received by gamers, and a few days later Sony decided not to offer free PS5 upgrades to users who purchase the standard PS4 edition of Horizon Forbidden. West.

But it would be the last PS4 game to offer a free PS5 upgrade path, Ryan added, with all future cross-gen first-party titles, including God of War Ragnarok and Gran Turismo 7, expected to incur an upgrade fee. at $10 level.

However, Sony’s recent marketing of Horizon Forbidden West has led Hoeg to accuse the company of “duplicity and greed”.

If you search for Horizon Forbidden West online via the US PlayStation Store, the game’s main pre-order marketing at the top of the page is promoting a $69.99/£69.99 product compatible with PS5 and PS4.

Scroll down the page and you’ll find what’s essentially the same product on offer for $59.99 / £59.99.

Lawyer blasts Sony for 'misleading' marketing of Horizon's free PS5 upgrade
Sony primarily markets the $70/£70 version of Horizon Forbidden West

“For people not following what’s going on here, Sony is offering a PS4 version with a ‘free’ PS5 upgrade for $60 and a PS5 version with a PS4 copy included for $70,” Hoeg tweeted Monday.

“Same package. Two price points. With one displayed more prominently than the other.

“It’s getting worse,” he wrote in a follow-up. “The PS4 version doesn’t seem to be offered through the store at all on a PS5, whether or not you’re only asking for PS4 games.”

VGC reported earlier this month that PS5 owners can only purchase the cheaper version of Horizon Forbidden West through a desktop or mobile app.

An official Sony FAQs even still carries the outdated message that players who purchase the standard and special editions of the game for PS4 are not entitled to a free upgrade.

“Hell, they haven’t even updated their FAQ (which is now a complete lie),” Hoeg said. “Tell me how casual buyers are supposed to get away with it? It’s like they want to be sued.

In the latest episode of his video show Virtual legalityand in comments provided to VGC, Hoeg explained whether Sony’s marketing practices could cause the company issues with the Federal Trade Commission, which protects consumers by targeting unfair, deceptive or fraudulent practices in the marketplace.

“Things like ‘deceptive’ or ‘unfair’ practices are always a bit in the eye of the beholder, so while I can say that I personally think this kind of thing crosses the line and looks misleading on the face of it, I can’t guarantee that a regulator like the FTC or a judge would feel the same,” Hoeg told VGC.

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“That said, as I mentioned in my video, you can certainly watch what was presented and believe that material information (the ability to get a copy of Horizon for $60) is deliberately withheld and/or obscured by Sony and the PS5 in-store presentation, and that if consumers knew they could play Horizon on PS5 for $60, many would make that choice instead of paying $70.

Unfortunately for gamers who may have already purchased the $70 version of Horizon Forbidden West assuming they were getting the best deal, Hoeg said “the FTC is not likely to take any action. whatever” because she has limited resources and bigger fish to fry.

Consumers may try to take matters into their own hands through a class action lawsuit, although whether such a case would be big enough to entice law firms to take it up is also up for grabs. discuss.

“I think this kind of thing could present a class action opportunity,” Hoeg told VGC. “Many individual states (not to mention jurisdictions outside of the United States) have deceptive marketing practices laws that allow civil actions, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a claim for plaintiffs from a remedy firm. collectives on something like this, although it will depend on the analysis that these companies make of what they think they can get out of a possible payday.

“Even taking Horizon Zero Dawn’s 20 million sales number and applying $10 to it (which isn’t realistic given how many sales will be on PS4), the lawyers are ‘only’ arguing $200 million for the class, so they’ll be looking to see if the turnover is enough to fight.

We also asked Hoeg how he would advise Sony to fix the current situation. For example, should it only advertise the $60 version of the game or offer automatic $10 refunds to players who purchased the $70 version?

“In practice, not legally, I would definitely advise Sony to change course on this,” he replied. “I suspect that at least some of the issues here arise due to their issues transitioning licenses from generation to generation, but the easiest thing would be to lower the price of the PS5 version to $60 to match the PS4 version.

“The second easiest thing would be to make sure the PS4 version is available for purchase through a user’s PS5 and very clearly state that you’re getting a PS5 version with the PS4 version.

“What they chose to do instead seems like the worst of both worlds, which seems to be the case because they never planned to upgrade the PS4 version for free despite what they told the Washington Post before. to launch the PS5.”

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