What do you want to know
- Microsoft is grappling with three major regulators over its attempted acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
- As part of the proceedings, Microsoft revealed that Sony had “exclusion” agreements in place for third-party games on PlayStation.
- It looks like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Final Fantasy 16, and Silent Hill 2 Remake will never be released on Xbox, despite the associated publishers’ silence on the matter.
- Microsoft also cited From Software’s Bloodborne as an example of a third-party-developed game that was blocked from platforms other than PlayStation, which could imply that the oft-requested Windows PC port is also out of the question. Sony has been more PC friendly in recent years, so I’m holding out hope for this one.
The drama around the Activision Blizzard acquisition is heating up, as Microsoft steps up its engagement with regulators.
Yesterday, Microsoft released its response to the US FTC regarding its lawsuit, confusing its odd position of wanting to protect the market leader at the expense of consumers. Microsoft also issued a similar response to the UK CMA a few months ago and seemingly confirmed what many of us were already expecting to be true.
When Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced, it was revealed as a timed exclusive, with a countdown indicating how long it would remain exclusive to PlayStation. This led many Xbox fans to expect FF7R to eventually come to Microsoft’s console, but alas, that just didn’t happen. It seems that Square Enix’s “timed exclusivity” periods only apply to the PC versions of their games, given that FF7R is now available on Steam for Windows.
In case you missed it (marked by KoreaXboxNews)Microsoft has confirmed this in its answer to UK regulator, claiming Sony has permanent exclusion agreements in place for games like Bloodborne, Final Fantasy XVI and upcoming Silent Hill 2 remake.
“In addition to having outright exclusive content, Sony also has agreements with third-party publishers that require Xbox to be ‘opted out’ of all platforms where those publishers can distribute their games. Some Prominent examples of these deals include Final Fantasy VII Remake (Square Enix), Bloodborne (From Software), the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI (Square Enix), and the recently announced Silent Hill 2 Remastered (Bloober Team).
While there have been a few slivers of hope that Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Final Fantasy 16 could eventually come to Xbox, it seems this oft-overlooked passage from October’s CMA filing may put the final nail in the coffin.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is an excellent action-RPG reimagining the classic 90s JRPG, with infectious combat mechanics and dozens of hours of nostalgic exploration to partake in. Final Fantasy 16 also looks pretty great, and Bloober Team’s Silent Hill 2 Remake is going to be a fascinating project, given the legendary status of the franchise. Xbox won’t get any, though, which arguably strengthens Microsoft’s case when it comes to exclusive content.
The Windows Central point of view
Microsoft has engaged in similar deals in the past, but not so recently. Games like Ryse and Sunset Overdrive from the Xbox One generation could be compared to Sony’s Bloodborne deal, for example. However, Microsoft generally did not enter into agreements with third parties that completely excluded competing platforms from franchises that previously existed on competing platforms. Rise of the Tomb Raider was a brief timed exclusive for Xbox, and Microsoft has been skewered in the wider gaming press for daring to agree to such a deal – which Sony is now doing with impunity, to no one’s criticism.
Microsoft acknowledged in the same CMA filing that proprietary policies are not uncommon. Ultimately, Sony is doing the right thing for its customers and shareholders, and Microsoft’s admission that games like Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield will be entirely exclusive to Xbox reflects the importance of exclusive content. Regulators wouldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) pretend that Netflix or Disney+ must trade content for free. It would be great if all the content was available on one platform for convenience, but if there was only one platform that existed, who knows how steep the prices would be? Competition is what drives prices down, competition is what inspires innovation in new features, higher quality and new technologies.
To me, Sony’s exclusivity deals are just more proof that Microsoft should be allowed to take over Activision Blizzard. For Microsoft to compete with Nintendo and Sony, it needs more of these great franchises under its banner, and for consumers, bringing them into Xbox Game Pass is the kind of value that only the competition can deliver. Regulators’ strange complacency in the status quo literally hurts competition – something they are supposed to promote.