The console war continues to be talked about, but this time the battle has moved to the Microsoft and Sony games catalog. The former accuses the latter of blocking certain games from entering Game Pass.
The acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft was not an easy undertaking. This merger of the two video game giants naturally attracts the attention of competition authorities around the world. The review by the Administrative Council for Economic Defense of Brazil (CADE) also teaches us a lot about the risks that this takeover could pose, especially for Sony, which in this case would not be very fair play.
“Right to block” imposed by Sony
In a lengthy 27-page document (written entirely in Portuguese), we actually learn that Microsoft is accusing Sony of establishing a “right to block” certain games to keep them out of the Game Pass program. “Microsoft’s ability to continue expanding Game Pass is hampered by Sony’s desire to curb that growth,” the Xbox maker lamented in a statement.
However, it is possible that this famous “right to block” was introduced without malicious intent on the part of Sony. The Japanese company was indeed able to secure exclusive contracts (even before the announcement of the Microsoft/Blizzard takeover) to expand its catalog and make the public want to buy the PlayStation 5 over the Xbox Series X. These exclusive contracts were also partly revealed during the famous legal battle between Epic Games and Apple last year.
This won’t be the first time Sony has negotiated questionable terms for its platform. In 2021, we learned, for example, that the company agreed to open its console for crossplay, but under certain conditions. As our colleagues at Gamekult explained at the time, a clause in the contract required game publishers to pay royalties to Sony if “the ratio between game time spent on the PlayStation is disproportionate to the revenue generated from the same game on the Playstation.” This ambiguous stance by Sony has not escaped the notice of Microsoft, which tells the Brazilian authorities that “the strategy of exclusivity is at the heart of Sony’s strategy to strengthen its presence in the gaming industry.”
Two Perspectives on the Video Game Industry
It must be said that the Japanese manufacturer is rightfully concerned about this potential takeover. It’s nearly impossible to compete with a franchise like Call of Duty, which over the years has become a “category of games in its own right,” the firm says. Unfounded fears on the part of Microsoft, who “for simple economic reasons” don’t see themselves stopping Call of Duty marketing on the PlayStation anyway. It seems that the manufacturer believes that it would be “unprofitable” to deprive itself of income generated by other platforms, because the shortfall will not be compensated by operating the game only on Game Pass.
The lawsuit highlights Sony and Microsoft’s very different views on the video game industry. The former believes that healthy and balanced competition with exclusive games as a selling point is good for the sector, while the latter seeks to distribute all the games in its catalog as widely as possible in order to become indispensable in the world of video games.