Microsoft says PlayStation pays “blocking rights” to keep titles off Game Pass

Software giant Microsoft has claimed that PlayStation owner Sony pays for “blocking rights” to prevent developers from putting their games on its Game Pass subscription service.

The Verge reports these claims are contained in Microsoft’s 27-page submission to Brazil’s national competition regulator, which is currently reviewing the company’s planned $68.7 billion (R1.11 trillion) acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft told the country’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) that its ability to continue expanding Game Pass has been hampered by Sony’s desire to inhibit its growth.

“Sony pays for ‘blocking rights’ to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services,” the company said.

It was responding to Sony’s submission that allowing Microsoft to buy the publisher would be anti-competitive because it could give Microsoft exclusive rights over Activision Blizzard’s flagship property — Call of Duty (COD).

Microsoft pointed out that Sony also had exclusivity deals as a key component in its business strategy.

This effectively forces gamers to buy a PlayStation console to play some of its most sought-after titles or access third-party games earlier than on other platforms.

According to Game Rant, the “blocking rights” Microsoft referred to were clauses in contracts for publishing games on PlayStation that prevented developers from adding them to Game Pass.

Editorial credit: vfhnb12 / Shutterstock

The US Federal Trade Commission is considering submissions on Microsoft’s acquisition, but correspondence from that review is private.

Brazil’s review of the Microsoft-Activision acquisition is open to the public, which has led to one user on ResetEra publishing some of its details online.

Sony has been the only major opponent to the deal, arguing that no other games rival COD and that the game was an important revenue stream for PlayStation.

It maintained that Microsoft’s ownership of COD could influence gamers’ choice of consoles.

However, Big Tech players like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Meta’s submissions indicated they are not too concerned about the impact of the acquisition on competition.

Rival publishers such as Bandai Namco, Riot Games, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros don’t expect any anti-competitive effect either.

Microsoft and several of these publishers listed competitors to COD, such as Apex Legends, Battlefield, Fortnite, and PUBG.

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Microsoft says PlayStation pays “blocking rights” to keep titles off Game Pass