Microsoft and Sony's Turf Battle Continues

The Xbox maker is accusing the PlayStation manufacturer of paying games to stay off the former's subscription service.

The modern-day console war between Sony and Microsoft continued this week, as the Xbox maker accused the PlayStation manufacturer of paying game developers simply to keep their games from joining the Xbox Games Pass bundle.

That allegation appeared in filings that Microsoft made to Brazilian regulators in an attempt to persuade the government that its pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard is not anti-competitive. In its arguments, Microsoft stood pat with its commitment to continuing to publish Activision titles—such as “Call of Duty”—on PlayStation after the completion of the acquisition. 

But it also accused the PlayStation maker of offering cash sums to keep them off Games Pass, Microsoft’s subscription service on Xbox and PC that provides players access to hundreds of game titles from across both first-party and third-party studios.

“Microsoft’s ability to continue expanding Game Pass has been hampered by Sony’s desire to inhibit such growth,” Microsoft stated in an Aug. 9 filing with Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defense, as first reported and translated by The Verge. “Sony pays for ‘blocking rights’ to prevent developers from adding content to Game Pass and other competing subscription services.”

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Sony recently reworked its PlayStation Plus offering to feature three tiers, two of which provide a game catalog similar to Games Pass. Titles on that platform include “Stray,” the recently released PC and PlayStation exclusive indie game in which players go on an adventure as a cat. Other titles include multiples in the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise, several “Final Fantasy” titles, and many of Sony’s first-party games from Insomniac Games and its other studios.

Microsoft didn’t name specific games for which Sony sought “blocking rights.” Sony had not responded to Microsoft’s allegations at the time of this publication.

In addition to their console sales, both Microsoft and Sony have continued to push into the PC gaming space. 

Microsoft frequently launches its first-party titles on PC and Xbox simultaneously and has added some of them, such as “Flight Simulator” and “Halo: Infinite,” to its PC Games Pass on release day. Sony has remastered some of its titles, such as “Spider-Man,” “God of War” and “Horizon: Zero Dawn,” to work on PC, too—but it has not yet made the step of publishing games to PC on the same day as PlayStation releases.

One More Thing: Evo Recovers After a Rough 2020 

The Evolution Championship Series, ran its first in-person tournament in the U.S. since 2019 after a tumultuous three years. 

Viewed as one of the most important events in the esports calendar, the series’ premiere Las Vegas event returned to its former glory last weekend. 

Over the past three years, the series has faced a number of challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the ousting of its top organizer, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar, in summer 2020 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, including with minors. In Cuellar’s place, Evo hired Rick Thiher, a former Twitch staffer and co-creator of Combo Breaker, the first of the three major summer fighting game tournaments. 

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The event wasn’t perfect, but with tens of thousands of attendees and the return of many fan-favorite games, it marked a big moment for an esports and fighting game community that has faced two years of the pandemic and a reckoning of alleged racism and sexual abuse from some of its key members. 

Fighting games, unlike many other esports genres, struggles with online play. Evo did run a 2021 event online, allowing players from each region to participate in local, online tournaments. But it didn’t go particularly smoothly and the games themselves struggled with consistent online match quality.

Because of the precision and lack of global server infrastructure, fighting games are notoriously difficult to matchmake online and produce similar quality of games as they do in-person. They also are, at their core, global. Evo is often attended by players from more than 100 countries, and current and past champions come from all over: the U.S., Europe, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan and others. 

Elsewhere in Gaming and Esports

German producer Zedd has been a part of the gaming community for a long time. In 2011, he released a dance music interpretation of “The Legend of Zelda” theme song. In 2016, he created the theme song for the League of Legends World Championship and performed it at the finals at the Staples Center. In January 2019, he showed off a set of Lego installations inside the walls of his Los Angeles home, which included an “Overwatch” Lego art. And then he got skins in VALORANT in September 2021. So it’s no surprise that gaming is playing a major part in relieving his burnout. A good read from Smith.

Gaming’s relationship with government military forces isn’t new. But it’s becoming more and more uncomfortable for those in the industry. Despite backlash from employees for previous military affiliations, Unity is signing a three-year deal to be a subcontractor for CACI International Inc., which provides aerial surveillance for the U.S. military.