Ooh boy, here's some more CMA regulatory drama for the party peeps. So today, Microsoft and Sony's statements on the Activision-Blizzard merger were published publicly by the UK regulatory body, the CMA. We've seen snippets of them shared before, but now we have the whole thing, and it's a hilarious insight into Sony's generalized hypocrisy over this whole ordeal. Sony claims Microsoft could foreclose content from Xbox (something Sony does with impunity), while restricting competition (something Sony does by forcing third parties to deny Xbox Game Pass deals), and, get this, Sony claims Microsoft could raise console prices (right after raising the price of the PS5 in most markets).
Beyond all of that fun stuff, Sony also inadvertently shared a snippet of news that is of particular interest to Microsoft watchers. That of Xbox Game Pass' growth. There have been reports that Xbox Game Pass has repeatedly missed growth targets — evidence based only on the fact that certain Microsoft executive bonuses are tied to specific aspirational goals for the service. Regardless of whether or not any specific targets have been missed, it seems Xbox Game Pass is gradually growing.
Spotted by @EverbornSaga on Twitter, Sony's statements include a self-deprecating passage wherein the firm tries to paint itself as an underdog in the subscription wars by noting Xbox Game Pass has hit 29 million subscribers — up from the previous official benchmark of 25 million.
Some very interesting statements in Sony’s response… https://t.co/dRFZymHRyb pic.twitter.com/Pd8Er5BCyBNovember 23, 2022
"Game Pass leads PlayStation Plus significantly," Sony says. "Microsoft already has a substantial lead in multi-game subscription services. Game Pass has 29 million subscribers to Xbox Game Pass Console and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and is expected to grow substantially in the future. The multi-game subscription tiers of PlayStation Plus considerably lag with fewer than [redacted] the number of subscribers."
This figure potentially doesn't even include PC Game Pass, although it could be argued that's less relevant in a market utterly dominated by Steam. In any case, what it does show is that Xbox Game Pass is steadily, if slowly, growing in user base without a great deal of compelling first-party content — a situation that could (and will) drastically change in the coming years, as ZeniMax, Bethesda, and Microsoft's other acquisitions start putting new content like Starfield direct into the service.
Naturally, Sony would be afraid of a universe where Call of Duty is $10 per month on Xbox but $70 on PlayStation, but from a competitive and regulatory point of view, the picture Sony is painting here is disingenuous.
Sony fails to mention that it isn't even trying to compete in subscription services here, and I'm half tempted to theorize that PSN Plus was just a half-hearted effort the company cobbled together to paint itself as an underdog to regulators. Microsoft is putting its first-party exclusives day and date into Xbox Game Pass, whereas Sony is actively withdrawing content like God of War: Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West from its PSN Plus subscription service as it seeks to capitalize on retail sales over adding value to its own service.
If Sony truly wanted to compete (and honestly, crush) Xbox Game Pass, they more than have the means to do so, while offering consumers a more competitive deal in the process. Instead, Sony has actively worked to decrease competition in this space, by declining to add its own games, while threatening third-party developers who dare work with Xbox Game Pass. That doesn't seem like healthy competition to me, eh, regulators?
Windows Central Newsletter
Get the best of Windows Central in in your inbox, every day!
Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!
Thank you for signing up to Windows Central. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.