Sony pays “blocking fees” to developers to prevent them from adding their games to Game Pass, according to Microsoft’s remarkable claims.
Reported by the Verge (opens in a new tab)claims arise from filing (opens in a new tab) with Brazil’s national competition regulator, as part of a review of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The filing, which took place on August 9 and is translated from Portuguese, claims that Microsoft’s attempts to expand Game Pass have been “hampered by Sony’s desire to inhibit such growth”. Going further, the filing alleges that Sony “pays for ‘blocking rights’ to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.”
Microsoft‘s accusation follows Sony’s own claim that Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard could influence gamer decisions (opens in a new tab) on whether to buy an Xbox or PlayStation (especially given the massive appeal of Call of Duty), which hampers competition. Microsoft, for its part, has repeatedly stated its intention to continue developing Activision games for other platforms, including PlayStation.
There are two big questions here. The first is whether Sony specifically targets games to prevent them from appearing on Game Pass, or whether “blocking the rights” is simply a provocative way of saying “exclusive deal.” It’s understandable that both companies want games to be hosted specifically on their platforms, especially as they work to make their respective subscription services more appealing to customers.
The other question is whether these so-called blocking rights have any impact on the PC. It is clear that Sony and Microsoft want to bring their games to PC. All games currently being developed by Microsoft and its subsidiaries are coming to PC Game Pass on day one of launch, while Sony has been drip-feeding its PS4 exclusives to PC and recently expanding its web page. (opens in a new tab)outlining its broader plans to bring PlayStation games to PC. But if Sony is paying for Game Pass’s so-called “blocking fees”, does that only affect the Xbox proportion of Game Pass, Game Pass as a whole, or does it completely prevent the launch of these games other than PlayStation?
Whatever the ramifications of these exclusive deals orbiting Game Pass, it’s clear that Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard has heated up the rivalry between it and Sony, which goes somewhat against Phil’s claims. Spencer that he expends “zero energy”. (opens in a new tab)on the notion of console wars. These probably won’t be the last snaps exchanged between the two companies either, as Brazil isn’t the only country looking closely at the deal with Activision Blizzard either. UK competition watchdog and FTC review acquisition (opens in a new tab). Let’s just hope this ongoing tit-for-tat doesn’t inadvertently hamper the chances of games coming to PC.