Microsoft claims Sony pays developers “blocking rights” to prevent titles from appearing on Xbox Game Pass in a long document provided to the Brazilian government as part of its probe into Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

The charge emerges in a 27-page reply to Sony’s recent objections to Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition, which were submitted to Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) as part of its probe. Much of Sony’s argument had centred 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 claiming, among other things, that including Call of Duty on Microsoft’s Game Pass service would limit its ability to compete.

Microsoft’s response is as broad as Sony’s initial objections, ranging from the fact that it has previously grown Game Pass without Activision Blizzard’s titles – implying that Call of Duty may not be as “essential” as Sony claims – to a reiteration of its assurances that it will not make Call of Duty an Xbox console exclusive.

Microsoft takes a shot at Sony here, claiming (according to a Google-translated version of its submission) that, despite its reservations about exclusivity, “the use of exclusive partnerships has been at the heart of Sony’s strategy to enhance its influence in the gaming industry.”

Microsoft calls Sony’s concerns “incoherent,” given that the company is a leader in the distribution of digital games due to PlayStation’s dominant market share – especially since, according to Microsoft, 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.”

Sony’s fear, according to Microsoft, is not that the acquisition will impede 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 complete paper has several rebuttals to Sony’s accusations (including Microsoft’s observation that, of all the major industry participants polled by the Brazilian government on the acquisition, Sony was the only one to protest) and is well worth reading.

Expect more back and forth as the transaction is scrutinised by other nations prior to regulatory clearance. Assuming Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition is approved by authorities, the process is expected to be completed by next summer.


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