Microsoft has accused Sony of paying publishers “blocking rights” to prevent some games to come to its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. The company made this claim in documents sent to Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) competition regulator (via The Verge) as part of Microsoft’s ongoing process to acquire Activision Blizzard.
“Microsoft’s ability to continue expanding Game Pass has been hampered by Sony’s desire to inhibit such growth,” Microsoft claimed in the documents. “Sony pays for ‘blocking rights’ to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.”
That’s a pretty serious accusation from Microsoft, though the company didn’t go into specifics with Brazil’s competition regulator. Anyway, this claim definitely puts the competition between Xbox and PlayStation in an interesting new light.
Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service remains a pretty unique proposition in the video games industry today. If Sony is happy to have its customers pay $80 for PlayStation-exclusive games, Microsoft now ships all of its Xbox Game Studios titles on Game Pass on day one. In recent years, we’ve also seen several high-profile third-party games such as Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Extinction launch on Game Pass on day one.
Overall, the exclusivity war between console makers may well have taken a different turn with the rise of game subscription services. If we believe Microsoft’s claims, it’s no longer about traditional console exclusivity deals, it’s about preventing cross-platform games from appearing on competing game subscription services.
Microsoft is certainly paying publishers handsomely to get their games on Xbox Game Pass. According to the company’s claims, though, Sony is also paying publishers, possibly even more money, to not put their games on Game Pass.
If true, this isn’t exactly a good look for Sony, especially since the PlayStation brand still enjoys an incredible level of momentum. However, Sony making moves to hinder Xbox Game Pass’s growth wouldn’t be really surprising for a company that long resisted embracing multiplayer crossplay in fear of losing market share.