Apple accused of pressuring game rivals in Japan

Published: August 16, 2018
People visit an Apple store  in Istanbul, Turkey August 15, 2018.

People visit an Apple store in Istanbul, Turkey August 15, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO: Japanese regulators are investigating Apple over allegations it unfairly pressured Yahoo Japan to slow the expansion of its online games platform, which competes with Apple’s App Store, Japanese media reported on Thursday.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is looking at whether Apple interfered in Yahoo Japan’s operations by pressuring it to cut back on developing its Game Plus web-based service which enables users to stream games without downloading apps, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

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Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman at Yahoo Japan, one of the country’s most successful internet companies, declined to comment on the report but said that the site continued to add game titles.

Shares in Yahoo Japan fell around 2.5 per cent in early trade, while the broader market slipped 0.5 per cent.

Last month, the FTC said Apple could have breached antitrust rules by forcing Japanese mobile service providers to sell its iPhones cheaply and charge higher monthly fees, denying consumers a fair choice.

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Game Plus offers free and fee-based games developed by Square Enix and other game publishers, some of which are also available on the App Store for Japan-registered users. Yahoo Japan’s gaming site has more than 60 million monthly users, which the company and game publishers can tap for usage history and other data.

According to the Nikkei, Yahoo slashed its budget for the platform last year and has largely stopped promoting the service. Meanwhile, game publisher Square Enix in April removed a game that had been developed exclusively for the site, the newspaper added.

Yahoo Japan’s biggest shareholder is SoftBank.

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