As Microsoft nears the completion of the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the company is obliged to convince a number of governments around the world that the seizure of Candy Crush, Diablo and Call of Duty Xbox is not really an example of antitrust behavior. The documents Microsoft is sending to the relevant governing bodies to facilitate this acquisition have proved particularly intriguing.
The latest example of Microsoft making curious and surprisingly striking comments about the state of the industry is related to its submission to the Brazilian Administrative Council for Economic Protection (CADE). The document justifying Activision Blizzard’s acquisition of Xbox claims that Sony is involved in blocking the launch of games within the Game Pass by paying developers.
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There are no words in Microsoft’s letter to CADE. “Sony pays for “blocking rights” so that developers cannot add content to the Game Pass,” the document says. Although some parts of it have been edited for possible privacy, the crux of the argument is that Sony may pay game developers specifically not to post their games on the Xbox subscription service. Many believe that the updated PS Plus is still inferior to the Xbox Game Pass, and Microsoft suggests that one of the ways Sony is holding back the Xbox’s growth is by “bribing” developers to stay away from it.
Presumably, the CADE letter was sent along with Microsoft’s report to the New Zealand Trade Commission, which stated that Activision Blizzard games are not mandatory games. This was caused by Sony’s statements that Call of Duty, in particular, is an unsurpassed blockbuster that should not actually belong to a third-party console manufacturer. At the same time, it’s worth noting that Microsoft explained that it doesn’t make sense to limit COD to just one console platform and that it won’t leave its PlayStation fans unattended.
Unsurprisingly, this is only a small part of the ongoing tug of war between Microsoft and Sony. Recently, Microsoft has jointly pushed aside Sony’s acquisition concerns, and it is clear that the software company is doing everything possible to look as harmless and kind as possible in the gaming arena. At the same time, Sony is trying to portray this acquisition as anti-competitive behavior, and it is not yet clear which side lawmakers may lean on.
Of course, it’s not hard to understand where Sony is coming from. Xbox now controls two classic PlayStation IP addresses among many others that have proven themselves quite well across the entire spectrum of gaming consoles. The main problem is related to the fact that Xbox may refuse to support PlayStation for a long period of time, which certainly will not be unprecedented.