Microsoft has admitted that Sony has more exclusive games that are “better quality” than its own.
The statement comes in documents pertaining to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which have just been released.
In Microsoft’s response to the CMA’s Issues Statement, it claims the proposed merger is pro-competitive due to Sony’s standing as the dominant platform holder.
“In addition to being the dominant console provider, Sony is also a powerful game publisher,” reads the response from Microsoft. “Sony is roughly equivalent in size to Activision and nearly double the size of Microsoft’s game publishing business.”
Sony’s exclusive first-party franchises, including God of War, The Last of Us, and the recently acquired Destiny 2, are described as “iconic”.
“There were over 280 exclusive first- and third-party titles on PlayStation in 2021, nearly five times as many as on Xbox”.
Later in the document, to prove the merger would have no anticompetitive effect, Microsoft states: “Sony has more exclusive games than Microsoft, many of which are better quality”.
“Both Sony’s and Nintendo’s exclusive first-party games rank among the best-selling in Europe and worldwide,” it reads. “Current Sony exclusive content includes prominent first-party titles such as The Last of Us, Ghost of Tsushima, God of War, and Spiderman.”
It also suggests that Sony has “entered into arrangements with third-party publishers which require the ‘exclusion’ of Xbox from the set of platforms these publishers can distribute their games on”.
This includes Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Bloodborne, Final Fantasy 16, and the Silent Hill 2 remake as examples.
It’s also claimed that console exclusives account for a higher percentage of global game sales for PlayStation than for Xbox, though specific figures have been removed. It’s suggested for Nintendo these proportions would be even higher due to “the importance of Nintendo’s exclusive first-party portfolio”.
“It is implausible that Sony, the leading console with a more than 2-to-1 lead, would be foreclosed as a result of not having access to a single franchise,” the document claims, referring specifically to Call of Duty.
Microsoft additionally comments on Nintendo’s exclusive games, claiming it “offers a broader range of mature content than Xbox”.
“The CMA has mischaracterised the Nintendo Switch as being predominantly for families. Such a characterisation neglects the fact that more mature/adult games are available on the Switch and are actively marketed, including on Switch’s YouTube channel,” said Microsoft.
“Nintendo’s use of innovation should not detract from the fact that it is still offering a console experience that competes with Xbox and Sony, and has been able to successfully do so without Call of Duty being on its platform (despite previous Nintendo consoles having Call of Duty content)”.
Last month, Microsoft’s financial results showed that its Game Pass subscription service had missed growth targets for the second year in a row. A lack of prominent exclusives is widely seen as a key reason.
Then again, Obsidian’s Josh Sawyer admitted that unique games like exclusive Pentiment wouldn’t have been possible without Game Pass.
Sony, meanwhile, has refused to add its exclusives to PS Plus on day one – and they continue to sell very well.