The most recent round of the CMA’s response is out, and it shows that Sony is acting pathetic when faced with the eventually that Call of Duty might come to Game Pass.
Setting down Parameters
Don’t worry. This is just one of many local video game opinion man has opinions on the industry things. You can read the British Consumer and Market Authority’s observations in the case of tech giant Microsoft acquiring Activision/Blizzard here and you can also read through Microsoft’s response to all of that here. I will try to refrain from paraphrasing anything from these pieces because, ho boy, can you take them out of context? I just want to go down to brass tax here and make my claim that Sony as the defacto market leader in gaming is pulling a Disney and I don’t like it.
And before anyone starts accusing me of being an Xbox fanboy because I didn’t like the new God of War that much. Seriously I’ve read in regards to criticism towards many things Sony does a “Yea well, I don’t see Xbox doing anything of meaning.” like that has something to do with anything. When did liking video games turn into joining street gangs in ugly colors and bragging about who has superior bad taste in video games?
So here are some ground things about me, the writer. I like Game Pass. I seriously think it is the early stage of a revolution that can change the way we think about it, especially gaming. Does it currently title for everyone? No, some of my favorites on there are titles like Sea of Thieves and Dragon Quest XI, games that I hope, thanks to Game Pass, more people get to try out. (Seriously, play Dragon Quest XI. It’s available on pretty much any modern platform and is easily one of the best RPGs of the last decade.)
And I also think Xbox, under beautiful human being Phil Spencer is doing a lot of great things for the industry, as we can see with Obsidian Entertainment’s latest outings with Pentiment and Grounded. These are two games that Obsidian would never be able to make if they existed as just a first, second or third-part developer in the old ecosystem. And I would prefer if Sony would make similar strides towards beefing up their service to compete. Which they clearly have no intention for. And Mircosoft, who are playing the long game here, still hasn’t managed to put a real value on their service either.
How we got here
Honestly, looking back at it. It is really hilarious how in just one console generation, everything was just flipped on its head. We older gamers might remember a time, especially during the mid-2000s, when the PlayStation was the wacky weeb console with the funny, weird games and the Xbox was the dudebro console with the Call of Duties and Halo. And all it took was for Microsoft to shit the bed at their E3 reveal of the Xbox One and for Sony to last minute slash the price of the PlayStation 4. Also, that funny bit about sharing games, even if physical games are almost dead now.
During that age, especially early on, Sony established a big lead in console sales. Do keep in mind that in the age in which crossplay, which for some reason is still not a default feature across all platforms wasn’t really a thing either. And you know, players tend to gravitate towards the platforms with the bigger install base because chances are their friends already own that one.
Here comes the part that’ll hurt the stark Sony defenders the most. PlayStation’s big system sellers aren’t titles like The Last of Us, God of War, and Spider-Man. It’s FIFA, Madden, and Call of Duty. It is what the average person is most likely to buy and Sony’s current lead in the market was established by not faceplanting in front of the entire industry during the reveal of their big new console. And as much as people don’t like to hear it, this new Gen is really just a half-step at best. Early adopters will still mostly play the big three casual games on their new Plattform, even if they are available everywhere.
And it pains me to say that both the Sony PlayStation and the Xbox Series Whatever still don’t really have what you’d call a system seller either. The PlayStation 4 was super lucky with Bloodborne as an exclusive until the latter half of the 7th generation. The only exclusive worth playing. Then came the wave of critically acclaimed, if not a little bland big exclusives that cemented Sony as the big player in the industry.
If we look at Mircosoft and Xbox, on the other hand, they spend that same timeframe spinning their wheels, catering to their core audience without making any moves either. It was only when Phil Spencer took over that things started to change a little. Microsoft looked at today’s industry, with the big blockbuster exclusives, and figured they didn’t want to play this game anymore. Instead, we got Game Pass, which like Netflix, might forever change the way we consume games.
Which Leads us to Today
From what we can tell, Sony is absolutely terrified of Game Pass. Because it means that their game, you know, the one they have been winning for the past eight years, would be flipped on its head and they have to rethink strategy. Suddenly having your few big games per generation won’t cut it anymore to lock any user to your console. You’d have to actually put the effort in and invest money to produce more and more content for your service. It happened to streaming movies and TV and judging by both Ubisoft and EA’s recent moves, it will eventually happen for video games.
So the whole Activision Blizzard acquisition is both hilarious and tragic at the same time. See, I hate Sony’s current business practices with a passion. I don’t want to buy a PlayStation 5, especially after raising the price for them in every single region besides the one you consider your home turf now. Exclusivity is not that much of a problem to me, but don’t do that just for the sake of having a game 6 months early. Because now you’re creating this weird fear of missing out because by the time Final Fantasy XVI releases on PC, it’ll probably be spoiled to hell and back for everyone. That’s bullshit and you know it.
But we’re talking about Call of Duty and Activision. Because apparently, Blizzard doesn’t really matter since no one who pays a World of Warcraft subscription or plays Overwatch 2, Diablo is considered a real gamer. Or ignoring the fact that half of their income comes from mobile games. The only reason why Sony is trying to block this deal is that they fear gamers would choose the more reasonable option to pay 15 bucks a month to have access to all of Call of Duty.
You know what would be really funny and could solve all of this? Make Game Pass available on the PlayStation console and give everyone a cut. Now I understand that not being able to play Call of Duty on your PlayStation sounds worrying, which it is. And going by Mircosoft words isn’t exactly enough to put stock in either. But looking at something like Minecraft, the only title Microsoft owns that is even remotely comparable to Call of Duty, I think they’d be fine.
But you’re also getting these weird arguments from all over the place, like Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI not getting a PlayStation release. And if you play any Bethesda game on anything but a PC with access to all the free mods that will make them playable in the first place.. are you okay? You know it doesn’t have to be that way. How Microsoft is the evilest company of them all for buying things that might increase their profits.
Sony is locking down their 2nd party developers by making huge investments into their products and it’s cool that they put money behind some of the best games in the medium. But that also means, and we can look at Sony’s big titles of this year, that you get well-produced but kind of bland titles because they are the only thing PlayStation has going for them, outside of locking down timed contracts for all kinds of games and then of course only throwing third party titles on their subscription service and raising the price on games and consoles just for the fun of it.
What Sony Actually Lacks
But all of this isn’t even what ticks me off about this whole situation. It is the crying and moaning of unfair business practices on social media by fans of both camps and, even more embarrassingly, those two gigantic companies taking potshots at each other. I understand both sides just doing their best to keep skin in the game, but Sony is making it really hard for me not to cheer for the underdog Mircosoft here. Can you even say that? Can Microsoft even be an underdog in anything? Anyways, Sony’s gall is laughable.
If they had any confidence in their business strategy for this generation of gaming, then they would’ve just let Microsoft have Call of Duty. They had a shooter franchise in Killzone, which they mercilessly murdered and never really tried to do anything with. Because, you know.. just making PlayStation Halo but edgier wasn’t good enough. And they recently acquired Bungie, who literally made that game you tried to compete with.
The only thing all of this shows is a severe lack of confidence in their lineup and a refusal to play a game that is gradually shifting away from the model of AAA releases to live service titles and free-to-play. And as much as some of you might hear it, Game Pass kinda found a solution to that while still being able to fund and bring those big AAA releases to sell systems. Even if Game Pass, as of now, is mostly fluff but good fluff and it allows developers to be a lot more flexible.
But no, Call of Duty is the most important thing in the world, apparently, especially coming from you, Sony. Mr. “We Make Prestige High Art Video Game”. And now you fear you miss FOMOing players into buying your stupid plastic box with exclusive early access, season pass boosts, and other bullshit. It’s pathetic. Just say it how it is you don’t want to compete with a service like Game Pass because outside of your big bad AAAs and timed exclusives that also run on FOMO, you have done almost nothing. Come on, get up and do something. And you know, release all these other games for PC, please.
The World We Could be Living In
I want to be clear, I really sound pro-Microsoft here, but I don’t really care about most of their output. Honestly, I think an Xbox Series S coupled with Game Pass is currently the most consumer-friendly thing you can get in gaming. It’s comparatively cheap, easy to access, and compared to the Sony PlayStation 5 actually available.
Game Pass is the future, most likely. And Sony will eventually have to compete in this space unless they want to go under like everything else in the movie and television industry that isn’t flirting with streaming. In my ideal world, both Microsoft, Sony, and.. well, actually, all the big publishers have subscription services that you can use on your favorite overpriced plastic box. And wouldn’t it be better for developers as well? You know, set universal standards for consoles to make optimization for all platforms easier and, you know, sell games and consoles on the merit of them being good?
So here is my big proposal. Instead of spending money on either of those companies or Nintendo, which we’ll complain about at a later date. Head on to Humble Bundle or itch.io this Holiday season and either buy games while supporting a good cause or supporting an indie developer working on his passion project.
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