A new claim from Microsoft says Sony pays developers for “blocking rights” to stop them from adding their games to Xbox Game Pass. The allegation stems from documents filed with Brazil’s national competition regulator, which is reviewing Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard.
Exclusivity has long played a role in the competition between the two companies, and Sony’s comments regarding the exclusivity of Call of Duty also made headlines in recent days. While it’s a complex situation, one thing is clear — this move on Sony’s part is a testament to the phenomenal success of Xbox Game Pass.
It’s not unreasonable to say that Xbox Game Pass has completely changed the face of the industry over the last few years. Even though Xbox lags behind PlayStation in terms of sales, the goodwill Game Pass has bought Microsoft is incredible.
It’s one thing to have first-party Xbox games released day one on Game Pass, but the service also has a wide selection of third-party titles, with more constantly added. Microsoft has wisely made sure Game Pass is constantly getting something new, providing a reason for fans to not only sign up in the first place but keep a subscription for months at a time.
All of this has clearly put pressure on Sony to catch up, considering the new PlayStation Plus Extra system is so similar to Xbox Game Pass. This is partly why Sony has continued to pay for timed exclusivity on certain games, like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Deathloop, and Ghostwire Tokyo.
Because Xbox fans have such easy access to a whole library of games, Sony needed to make sure PlayStation users had access to content you literally couldn’t get anywhere else. Sony’s exclusives are clearly what has helped PlayStation excel over the years, but that may not be enough moving forward.
Keep in mind that Microsoft’s allegation may be more complicated than Sony just wanting games off Game Pass. Publishing contracts can be extremely complicated, and this may be Sony pushing forward money to make sure things aren’t “locked” to Game Pass, and can appear on other subscription services and platforms. This may simply be a bit to make sure new titles can also appear on PlayStation Plus, on top of Game Pass.
No matter what, though, this whole ordeal shows that the industry at large is going to need to have a reckoning with subscription services. Xbox Game Pass provides a value that has never existed for video game fans, but the only reason it’s been sustainable for Microsoft is because it’s a massive company that has so much income from other areas.
With development costs continuing to rise, it’s hard to see any other company being able to sustain something like Game Pass. Even still, consumers now have an expectation as to the value subscriptions can provide, and other companies will need to find a way to contend with that.
With the PS4 Sony was seen as the more “consumer-focused” console maker, after Microsoft made baffling decisions on game sharing. Over the years that script has completely flipped with Microsoft becoming the consumer-focused company, and Sony seeming more like the business-focused one.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Sony is desperate to play catch-up, and it’ll be interesting to see what steps the company takes after the Microsoft and Activision deal actually goes through.