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Tuesday October 24, 2006 5:31 pm

Editorial: Sony Bullies Lik-Sang Right Out Of Business

Lik-SangPlayfeed is reporting that Sony has managed to win a major battle in the war against grey market imports, basically by suing the company into the ground. The company in question is Lik-Sang, one of the largest import companies on the internet, and one that I’ve personally used in the past for games I knew would not be released stateside.

Never mind the fact that Lik-Sang already had a British judge rule against them for selling the PSP without Sony’s permission, and never mind the fact that Sony made the PSP region-free and is now trying to put that genie back in the bottle. Hell, let’s even ignore the fact that Sony’s own upper-tier executives in Europe purchased PSP’s from Lik-Sang because they couldn’t get them from their own company.

Sony could have filed a single lawsuit and have seen this reach a decision, which is exactly what happened. Sony stooped to new lows by filing the same lawsuit in every single EU country, basically drowning Lik-Sang in paperwork and lawyers fees. Sony wins because Lik-Sang can’t afford to defend themselves. The end result is that Sony didn’t just say, “Hey, stop selling our stuff, if you don’t mind.” They proceeded to nothing less than thuggery by beating the company while they were down.

This story is a perfect example of just how desperate Sony is, and is basically lashing out in all directions at once. The lawsuit(s) simply doesn’t make sense. Sony is basically attacking it’s most passionate fans by going after a company that serves their interest exclusively. The only people that use import services are the hardest of the hardcore, the fans that want to play everything, regardless of where it came from. It’s the exact opposite of the message they were trying to send by creating such a powerful console in the PS3, which caters to that same fanbase.

Now the real question is, what does Sony win by doing this? Are they protecting their profit margin ... after all, products sold in Europe are frequently marked up beyond belief because the market there is starved for these products. (Even with import markup, it’s usually cheaper to buy grey-market than through retail channels.) Why wouldn’t Sony simply cater to the customer instead, offering Europeans the opportunity to buy direct, or even lowering the ridiculous markup to something more reasonable to encourage purchasing locally? Or hell, why not even realize that you’ve continuously screwed this territory over with delays and “third-tier” status for so long, and that those customers matter too?

Well, it doesn’t matter. Now that Lik-Sang has curled up into the fetal position, Sony has vowed to do the same to anyone trying to sell a PS3 into Europe before the launch in that territory. Again, this isn’t a matter of getting them to stop selling your products “illegally”. It’s a matter of ensuring that those companies, frequently very small operations, can never sell anything to anyone ever again.

I was a Sony fan for a long time. My living room TV is a Sony. I have several S-Video switches that are all Sony. I’ve had Sony cameras, camcorders, as well as a PS1, PS2, and a PSP (until I realized I’d never get a decent game for it). I have had DVD players, home theater receivers, and other electronics all from a company who’s brand name was synonymous with quality. While I don’t live in Europe, this activity affects me as well, and Sony just sent a message loud and clear that they don’t want my business. It’s the same message they’ve been sending for months, with the ridiculous prices on the PS3, and bad PR.

Sony’s got their wish. I’m not a customer of theirs any more.

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