Ooh boy, here’s some more CMA regulatory drama for the party people. So today, Microsoft and Sony’s statements on the Activision-Blizzard merger were released publicly by the UK’s regulatory body, the CMA. We’ve seen snippets of them shared before, but now we have it all, and it’s a hilarious glimpse of Sony’s pervasive hypocrisy about this whole ordeal. Sony claims Microsoft could shut down Xbox content (something Sony does with impunity), while restricting competition (something Sony does by forcing third parties to deny Xbox Game Pass offers) and, check this out, Sony claims that Microsoft could increase the prices of the console (right after raising the price of the PS5 in most markets).
Beyond all that fun stuff, Sony also inadvertently shared a bit of news that is of particular interest to Microsoft watchers. That of the growth of Xbox Game Pass. 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 specific goals have been missed, it seems that Xbox Game Pass is gradually growing.
Seen by @EverbornSaga on TwitterSony’s statements include a self-deprecating passage in which the company tries to present itself as an underdog in the subscription wars by noting that Xbox Game Pass has reached 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 significantly leads PlayStation Plus”, says sony. “Microsoft already has a substantial lead in multi-game subscription services. Game Pass has 29 million Xbox Game Pass Console and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, and is expected to grow substantially in the future. Game subscription levels Multiple PlayStation Plus considerable lag with less than [redacted] the number of subscribers”.
This figure potentially doesn’t even include PC Game Pass, although it could be argued that it’s less relevant in a market totally dominated by Steam. In any case, what it does show is that Xbox Game Pass is growing steadily, if slowly, in the user base without a lot of compelling first-party content, a situation that could (and will) change dramatically in the coming years, as ZeniMax, Bethesda and other Microsoft acquisitions begin to include new content like Starfield directly on the service.
Naturally, Sony would be afraid of a universe where Call of Duty costs $10 per month on Xbox but $70 on PlayStation, but from a competitive and regulatory standpoint, the picture Sony is painting here is false.
Sony doesn’t mention that it’s not even trying to compete on subscription services here, and I’m half tempted to theorize that PSN Plus was just a half-hearted effort that the company cobbled together to present itself as an underdog to regulators. Microsoft is putting its exclusive exclusive day and date on Xbox Game Pass, while Sony is actively pulling content like God of War: Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West from its PSN Plus subscription service as it looks to capitalize on retail sales rather than add value at your own service.
If Sony really wanted to compete (and honestly, Special person) Xbox Game Pass, have more than the wherewithal to do it, while offering consumers a more competitive deal in the process. Instead, Sony has actively worked to lessen competition in this space by refusing to add its own games, while threatening third-party developers who dare to work with Xbox Game Pass. That doesn’t sound like healthy competition to me, huh, regulators?