Microsoft claims Sony pays “blocking rights” to prevent games from appearing on Game Pass

According to documents filed with Brazil’s national competition regulator, Microsoft claimed that Sony paid “blocking fees” to developers to prevent their games from being added to Xbox Game Pass. As part of the regulator’s review of Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the company alleged that Sony had “hindered” the growth of its Game Pass subscription service with its business practices.

“Microsoft’s ability to continue to expand Game Pass has been hampered by Sony’s desire to inhibit such growth,” Microsoft stated in its translated filing (via The Verge) to the Economic Defense Administrative Council. “Sony pays for ‘blocking rights’ to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.”

The deal Microsoft is referring to is common in the industry. Publishing contracts are complex, and with the addition of subscription services like Game Pass or PS Plus, that adds another layer of complexity to any agreement between studios, publishers, and companies that own platforms like Xbox and PlayStation. It’s likely not some sinister master plan by Sony, but business as usual in an industry where timed deals and console exclusives happen frequently.

Microsoft’s response comes shortly after Sony made its own claim that its users would switch to Xbox if Microsoft’s deal to buy Activision Blizzard and, by extension, the Call of Duty franchise, was completed. Microsoft has disputed that claim and had also previously indicated that it would continue to support Call of Duty on PlayStation “beyond the existing agreement” and into the future.

Any existing publishing deals with PlayStation made by Activision Blizzard, specifically those in place for Modern Warfare 2, next year’s Call of Duty: Warzone 2, and a major Call of Duty remake, will continue to be honored by Microsoft.

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