Japan investigates whether Apple has moved parties to ignore Yahoo game platform

Aug

16

2018

The Japanese competition authority is investigating whether Apple has misused its power by asking business partners not to join a Japanese game platform from Yahoo called Game Plus. This is reported by the Japanese business newspaper Nikkei.

According to Nikkei , Yahoo has significantly reduced its budget for Game Plus last year and the service is now hardly promoted. Square Enix, a major Japanese game publisher, withdrew the title Antique Carnevale from Game Plus in April, while the game was developed specifically for that platform. Yahoo would have told several business partners that Square Enix was forced by indirect pressure from Apple to withdraw from Game Plus.

The Japanese regulator thinks that there may be a violation of the Japanese competition rules. However, the investigation seems to be stuck, partly because SoftBank has, according to a source, raised itself as a mediator in this matter. SoftBank owns more than half of Yahoo Japan and that may have contributed to the downfall of Game Plus. The company handles payments at the Apple Store and keeps part of that money. This cash flow might have been jeopardized if it left Game Plus undisturbed. The main company Yahoo no longer has a finger at Yahoo Japan; the share the company had in the past is in a holding since Yahoo was bought by Verizon.

It is the Game Plus platform from Yahoo Japan, a web service founded in July 2017 that allows users to stream games and play html5 games on smartphones, without having to download apps for it. For example, iPhones owners are able to play games without needing the Apple App Store. The service would also be much looser than the App Store in terms of the rules on rates and software updates.

In addition to Square Enix, another 51 companies would have signed up to participate in Game Plus. Yahoo could merge data from its more than sixty million monthly users to help game publishers, including through the platform, sell merchandise and new titles. Yahoo would also have been planning to gradually expand the Game Plus platform, also to other areas, such as business software.

An employee of the Japanese regulator says that the various parties are not very willing to cooperate with the investigation, so it can be difficult to prove the possible abuse of power by Apple. However, he did not want to comment on this specific research. Nikkei also received no comments from Apple, Yahoo Japan or Softbank.

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