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Why This Lawyer Is Slamming Horizon Forbidden West

"Horizon Forbidden West," the latest PlayStation first-party title, is finally releasing later this week. Despite receiving high praise from critics for improving upon what made the original game so great, "Horizon Forbidden West" has also been the subject of some controversy, specifically related to the different versions of the title that will be made available to consumers. 

Lawyer Richard Hoeg has gained traction online for a tweet related to "Horizon Forbidden West" and its PS5 upgrade. For those not up-to-date, Sony begrudgingly decided to offer a free upgrade from the PS4 version of the game to the PS5 version. This means that anyone who buys the PS4 version of "Horizon Forbidden West" for $60 USD gets the PS5 version for free. However, the PS5 version is still available to purchase for $70 USD, with no added goodies or bonuses to justify the price. Naturally, most customers have decided that this essentially means people should buy the PS4 version — regardless of which console they own — to save $10 USD.

The problem, as argued by Hoeg, is that Sony appears to be diverting customers from the PS4 version as much as possible, trying to get people to pay more for essentially the same product. On the PlayStation Store website, Hoeg notes, the PS5 version (and its higher price) is displayed prominently at the top, with the PS4 version tucked away in the bottom half of the page. The game's FAQ page contains out-of-date information, telling users they must buy a special edition to get both versions of the game, which is no longer the case. Hoeg believes these and other practices related to the release of "Horizon Forbidden West" could constitute as unlawful marketing.

It's hard to track the different versions of Horizon Forbidden West

"Horizon Forbidden West" has come under fire more than once for its confusing release strategy. Last fall, Kotaku pointed out that there are at least nine different versions of the game available for preorder, from digital copies to special editions for both the PS4 and PlayStation 5 releases of the game. It quickly became very difficult for even hardcore fans to suss out which version of the highly anticipated title they should be picking up, particularly when bundles of the two console editions entered the equation.

Fans continued to complain about the confusing upgrade path and pricing for "Horizon Forbidden West" even after Sony updated the PlayStation Store page for the game to clarify the various price points. As noted by Eurogamer's Ishraq Subhan just last week, "Even with the change, the page is still unclear," pointing to the fact that a few versions of the game seem to include the exact same content, only with slightly different wording in the product descriptions. Furthermore, Subhan argued, "PS5 owners can't purchase the cheaper bundle directly from their consoles, as it's hidden from the PlayStation Store. Instead, they'll have to pre-order it from a PS4 or on the web." This last point was echoed by Richard Hoeg in his arguments against the game's marketing.

In other words, it's still fairly difficult to figure out which version of the game you're getting in some instances, and Sony still appears to be keeping some of the options off of players' radars.

Sony could get in trouble for deceptive practices

Speaking with VGC, Hoeg said that Sony seems to be deliberately obscuring the fact that consumers could purchase the game for $60, knowing that most people would choose the cheaper option. Unfortunately, Hoeg also believes that the Federal Trade Commission is unlikely to make a move on Sony for this, since the organization likely has "bigger fish to fry."

Hoeg does believe, however, that there could be a class action lawsuit in Sony's future, filed by anyone who feels duped into buying the $70 version of "Horizon Forbidden West." While individual states in the US have laws against deceptive marketing, the amount of money on the line might not be enough for some lawyers to get involved. Ultimately, Hoeg argued that Sony should course correct by either changing the price of the PS5 version to $60 or to allow PS5 users to buy the PS4 version through their consoles.

At this point, it remains to be seen whether or not Sony fans would pursue such a lawsuit. The launch of "Horizon Forbidden West" isn't all shady, at least. In order to tie into the themes of the game while giving back to the planet, PlayStation is offering to plant trees for each person who unlocks a specific trophy in the game.