Xbox is accusing Sony of paying developers “block fees” to keep games off Xbox Game Pass

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Things are getting a bit spicy between Sony and Microsoft as the Activision Blizzard deal moves closer toward finalization. In the latest development, Microsoft has claimed that Sony pays for blocking rights to keep games from appearing on competing gaming services such as Game Pass.

The claim was made in a document sent to Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) pertaining to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Microsoft’s statements on the matter read in part,

Indeed, Microsoft’s ability to continue expanding Game Pass has been obstructed by Sony’s desire to inhibit such growth. Sony pays for ‘blocking rights’ to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.

It only reveals, once again, a fear about an innovative business model that offers high-quality content at low costs to gamers, threatening a leadership that has been forged from a device-centric and exclusivity-focused strategy over the years.

Considering that exclusivity strategies have been at the core of Sony’s strategy to strengthen its presence in the games industry, and that Sony is a leader in the distribution of digital games, Sony’s concern with possible exclusivity of Activision‘s content is incoherent, to say the least.

These comments were part of Microsoft’s response to Sony’s claims that the Activision Blizzard deal is anti-competitive and therefore in violation of most countries’ antitrust laws. Particularly, Sony has pointed out the importance of the Call of Duty franchise, stating that

Call of Duty is so popular that it influences users’ choice of console, and its community of loyal users is entrenched enough that even if a competitor had the budget to develop a similar product, it would not be able to rival it.

 While platform exclusivity deals have been part of the gaming industry for a long time, Sony’s practice of blocking third-party games from appearing on rival subscription services hasn’t been widely known, though documented reference to it exists.

For its part Microsoft has stated that it does not intend to make Activision Blizzard’s games Xbox exclusive. It even went on to explain that such a strategy “would simply not be profitable” for them.

So what’s your take on all this? Is Sony playing dirty with its ploy to “inhibit growth” of rival subscription services like Game Pass, or is this just business as usual? Let us know what you think in the comments.