PlayStation boss Jim Ryan has claimed that game publishers unanimously agree that Xbox Game Pass is “destructive of value.” As part of the ongoing trial involving Xbox parent Microsoft and the US FTC, Ryan appeared in a pre-recorded video statement, addressing his concerns regarding Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard by $69 billion (about Rs. 5,66,128 crore). He stated that Microsoft’s business model for Game Pass has some challenges and is not profitable for the company. Also, he claims to have talked to publishers whose titles are currently available on the service, and they don’t seem to like it either.
“I’ve talked to all the publishers and they’re unanimous, they don’t like Game Pass because it destroys value,” Ryan said in his testimony (via IGN). This contradicts Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer’s claims from last year, where he claimed that the subscription service is “very very sustainable” and that the company was not aimlessly burning cash. It’s also worth mentioning that most of the Game Pass titles announced this year at the Xbox showcase were from returning publishers, which shows that some trust has been built. That being said, Xbox recently raised the prices of its Game Pass subscriptions around the world. Sony fears that once the deal between Microsoft and Activision closes, Call of Duty will become exclusive to Xbox. Team Green, however, is willing to agree to a 10-year deal that would guarantee the franchise’s games release at parity on PlayStation consoles, even moving to the next generation in 2028.
Ryan added that when Microsoft announced its acquisition in early 2022, Spencer approached him with a “potential letter of agreement,” along with a list of games Xbox promised to keep in parallel with PlayStation. However, it appears that the deal did not address concerns Ryan had about Activision titles on PlayStation and therefore a counter-proposal was submitted. He claimed that Spencer’s response “sounded alarm bells”, creating major concerns for Sony. The content of the interaction was not shared in court, but it all goes back to the possibility of Call of Duty being added to Game Pass, a fairly cheap alternative, which could pass PlayStation gamers to the other side.
The hearing also addressed Microsoft’s previous acquisition i.e. Bethesda Softworks and how it affected Sony. We recently learned that red drop It was originally supposed to be a cross-platform game, but was later made exclusive to Xbox and PC, following the acquisition. Something similar happened with Starfield, which Ryan originally hoped would be available on PlayStation consoles, as the developer has always released its games on both platforms. There were some strangers like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, which was available on PlayStation for a year, before making its way to Xbox. While Ryan isn’t a fan of Starfield being locked on the rival platform, he doesn’t consider it anti-competitive. However, he does not share similar views on Call of Duty.
Earlier this week, Spencer testified that Microsoft learned Starfield would be skipping Xbox, possibly as a timed PS5 exclusive, prompting them to act fast and acquire Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media. “So the Starfield discussion… when we hear that Starfield could end up bypassing Xbox as well, we can’t be in a position as a third-party console where we fall further behind in ownership of our content, so we’ve had to secure the content to remain viable in business,” Spencer said during cross-examination (via the edge).