In a lengthy document submitted to the Brazilian government as part of its investigation into Microsofts acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Microsoft has claimed Sony pays developers “blocking rights” to prevent games from appearing on Xbox Game Pass.
The accusation appears in a 27-page rebuttal of Sonys recent objections to Microsofts Activision Blizzard buyout, made to Brazils Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) as part of its investigation. Much of Sonys argument had focused on Call of Duty – which it claimed had “no rival” and was “so popular that it influences users choice of console” – with the PlayStation maker suggesting, among other things, that the inclusion of Call of Duty on Microsofts Game Pass service would hamper its ability to compete.
Microsofts response is as wide-ranging as Sonys initial objections, touching on everything from the fact it has previously managed to grow Game Pass without Activision Blizzards titles – suggesting Call of Duty mightnt be quite as “essential” as Sony claims – to a reiteration of its assurances that it wont be making Call of Duty an Xbox console exclusive.
Its here that Microsoft takes a swipe at Sony, pointing out (as per a Google-translated version of its filing) that for all its concerns around exclusivity, “the use of exclusive arrangements has been at the heart of Sonys strategy to strengthen its presence in the gaming industry”.
Microsoft says Sonys concerns are “incoherent”, given that, by virtue of PlayStations dominant market share, the company is a leader in the distribution of digital games – especially when, as Microsoft claims, Sony has actively hampered the growth of Game Pass by paying for “blocking rights to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services”.
Ultimately, argues Microsoft, Sonys fear isnt that the acquisition will hamper its ability to compete, but that the Game Pass business model of delivering “high-quality content at low costs to
players” will threaten a market leadership “forged from a device-centric strategy and focused on exclusivity”.
The full document has plenty more in the way of rebuttals to Sonys claims (including Microsofts note that, out of all the major industry players to be canvassed by the Brazilian government on the acquisition, Sony was the only one to object) and is well worth a read.
Expect more back and forth as the acquisition comes under further scrutiny from other countries ahead of any regulatory approval. Assuming Microsofts Activision Blizzard buyout doesnt fall foul of regulators, the process is anticipated to conclude by next summer.