Sony Pays “Blocking Rights” to Keep Games off Xbox Game Pass, Claims Microsoft

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If there’s a game missing on Xbox Game Pass, its chief rival might be to blame.

Brazil’s national competition regulator has published new documents relating to its review of Microsoft’s pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard, and one portion includes a surprising claim from the software giant that alleges Sony is paying “blocking rights” to keep certain games from reaching Game Pass, including other subscription services.

“Microsoft’s ability to continue expanding Game Pass has been hampered by Sony’s desire to inhibit such growth,” Microsoft said according to an August 9th filing to the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), translated from Portuguese. “Sony pays for ‘blocking rights’ to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.”

It’s unclear what Microsoft is referring to here, exactly, but the reality of the situation is probably more complicated than what the Xbox maker seems to be immediately suggesting, as pointed out in coverage by The Verge, which spotted the new documents.

Sony could simply be paying for exclusive rights for its own streaming services, or it may have clauses in some publishing contracts that prevent some games it publishes from being published on rival subscription services.

[…] contracts for publishing games can be complex, particularly when rights for streaming and subscription services are involved. Documents filed in the Epic Games v. Apple trial last year revealed Microsoft had been considering lowering the revenue split for PC games “in exchange for the grant of streaming rights to Microsoft.”

If Microsoft had proceeded with its plans, that could have led to the company securing exclusive streaming rights on some games, preventing them from being available on rival streaming services.

This doesn’t appear to be Microsoft’s only seemingly wild claim, either. The company has also claimed that adding Activision Blizzard games to Xbox Game Pass actually increases competition, contradicting Sony’s worry of how certain franchises, such as Call of Duty, would prompt many gamers to pick Xbox over PlayStation.

“The inclusion of Activision Blizzard content in Game Pass does not impair the ability of other players to compete in the digital game distribution market,” Microsoft claimed in one document, arguing that it actually increases the competition thanks to “high-quality content at lower immediate costs.”

Source: Sistema Eletrônico de Informações (via The Verge)

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Tsing Mui
News poster at The FPS Review.

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