Relations between Sony (PlayStation) and the American manufacturer (Xbox) have been strained since Microsoft entered the video game industry in the early 2000s. With the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005, Microsoft managed to rival and even destabilize its Japanese competitor, which had unabashedly dominated video game console sales since the release of its first PlayStation in 1994. After a decade of reign, the newly minted PS3 landed on the market in 2006 and won’t be able to compete against the Xbox 360. Certain tensions will emanate from there, and even a “console war” in which the PS3 will eventually narrowly prevail at the end of the generation.
For their part, Microsoft and Sony will not stop sending tips to each other through intermediary statements or through marketing actions, such as the famous Xbox 360 barge sent by Microsoft on the evening of the launch of the PS3 in France and which is tacitly passed on before the famous PlayStation evening.
The climax will undoubtedly be reached during E3 2013, in preparation for the Xbox One and PS4 presentations, with intense exchanges between the two manufacturers that will tend in favor of Sony.
The PS4/Xbox One generation and the arrival of Phil Spencer, the new Xbox boss, have calmed things down and eased tensions to work towards a healthier gaming industry. The two companies have made a mentality shift to unite gamers rather than confront them, although in 2022 a handful of gamers are still struggling to advance and get stuck in this childish war that serves the gaming industry.
And recent events may not be helpful. Indeed, for the first time in many years, new tensions are emerging between Sony and Microsoft over Game Pass and the Activision/Blizzard acquisition.
Sony ready to pay against Game Pass?
Do we really need to introduce you to Xbox Game Pass? Launched in June 2016, this exceptional service from Microsoft has now become a must-have and arguably the best offering on the market today. Many publishers have therefore wanted to imitate the Game Pass with services that have multiplied (EA Play, Ubisoft+ etc.). Recently, Sony has completely redesigned its PlayStation Plus to offer a service that is closer and closer to the unique Game Pass model.
Recently these are documents that have appeared on the Brazilian CADE website and allow us to discover some exchanges between Sony and Microsoft regarding a first discord. This affects the Game Pass, which is classified by PlayStation as “unstoppable”. For its part, Xbox defends itself by pointing to PlayStation Plus and in turn accuses Sony of using unfair methods to counteract the progress of Game Pass. According to the Redmond-based company, PlayStation would enter into agreements with third-party providers to prevent them from adding content and games to Game Pass.
Microsoft’s ability to continue Game Pass’ expansion has been hampered by Sony’s desire to stem that growth. Sony pays “lock-up fees” to prevent developers from adding content and games to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.
For Microsoft, Sony is not very positive about the rise of its Game Pass with a total of more than 26 million subscribers to date. According to the American company, PlayStation does not agree to do business with PlayStation Plus (which has more than 45 million subscribers). Sony doesn’t want to make its service as attractive as Game Pass and that’s why the Japanese company is trying to counter the rise of Microsoft’s service.
Sony’s isolated position is likely due to the fact that the Xbox Game Pass offering was launched as a competitive response to the “console wars” and the need to offer gamers value over buy-to-play. In this way, the Game Pass threatens to compete with the “buy-to-play” model that Sony has successfully introduced.
According to Microsoft, Sony is particularly aware that it is a leader (worldwide) when it comes to selling physical, but especially digital, video games. And that’s why the Japanese manufacturer is “outraged” to see this new offering compete.
Sony is outraged at having to compete with Microsoft’s Game Pass. Sony’s statements on subscription games are clear: Sony does not want attractive subscription services to jeopardize its dominance in the market for selling digital console games. Sony clearly rejects new economic models that could challenge its own.
According to Microsoft, this will from Sony to absolutely want to oppose the Game Pass would still affect the acquisition of Activision and in particular the Call of Duty license. The arrival of the latter in Microsoft’s service would be a disaster that could severely disrupt the game’s sales on PlayStation consoles.
The inclusion of Activision Blizzard games in Game Pass does not harm the competitiveness of other consoles, but on the contrary increases competition in the gaming sector … much to the chagrin of Sony.
The takeover of Activision/Blizzard by Sony is also becoming problematic between the two manufacturers.
The acquisition of Activision, an unfair operation by Microsoft?
Also on the pages of the Brazilian CADE site, we learn that Sony has firmly opposed the acquisition of Activision/Blizzard by Microsoft. For several weeks, Microsoft has been seeking approval from various regulatory bodies around the world (Ubisoft, Riot Games, Google, etc.) to validate the Activision/Blizzard acquisition. If no one opposes this transaction at the moment, Sony will try to resist.
According to PlayStation, Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision/Blizzard would be a point of no return in the video game industry, which would have two important consequences: the inclusion of all Activision/Blizzard games in Game Pass from the day of their exit. And the Call of Duty license that would become essential on PlayStation consoles.
For its part, Microsoft defends itself and confirms that the Call of Duty series will not be an Xbox exclusive. Players simply have the choice to select their payment model to access the games. Whether through a subscription system (Game Pass) or by paying for your game individually, excluding subscriptions on Xbox and PlayStation.
Players can still choose their preferred payment model to access Activision games […] The strategy of keeping Activision Blizzard games on Xbox would not be profitable for Microsoft. This would only be possible if Activision Blizzard’s games could attract enough players to the Xbox ecosystem and Microsoft could generate enough revenue to offset the losses.
To counter Sony’s statements, Microsoft claims that the Call of Duty license isn’t that essential. The American company does not hesitate to clarify that PlayStation’s words are exaggerated.
The claim that Call of Duty is “a separate market” is not tenable. […] Sony radically claims that there is ONLY one game franchise [Call of Duty] is essential to its existence as a viable distributor of digital games. However, the small proportion of consumer income and expenditure [chiffres censurés] is well below the threshold at which Call of Duty could be considered likely to affect PlayStation’s competitiveness.
In other words, according to Microsoft, Sony does not want to evolve and adapt to new trends, and for this reason PlayStation is against these changes. It only remains to wait for the answer of the Japanese manufacturer.
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