Microsoft & Sony Row Over Key Content Policy


An intense and quite aggressive argument is building over some recently released information about Microsoft’s “Content Submission & Release Policy’, which is the terms and conditions which games developed for the Xbox 360 must follow, in particular this part:

“Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other video game platform, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with the other video game platform versions in all regions where the title is available. If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360.”

Essentially, Microsoft can decide to not release a game if its release date is later than on another console, or if there is any difference in the content. It’s an immensely powerful statement – one which essentially prevents developers from having timed or context exclusivity deals with Sony, unless the developer is prepared to forfeit potential sales to Xbox 360 customers.

In an interview with Eurogamer, Chris Lewis, vice president of Interactive Entertainment Business for Microsoft Europe, defended the policy arguing that by doing this they ensure fairness for their customers. Sony’s response to this is much more inflammatory. In an interview with IndustryGamers, Rob Dyer, SCEA’s SVP of Publisher Relationships, hit back, claiming that Microsoft were “protecting inferior technology“, and more:

“I think what Chris Lewis was referring to was something that we’ve known about for quite some time, that we’ve been dealing with, and trying to deal with – in the spirit of competition, more than anything, we look for ways to give our consumer reason to have the PS3. I think what Chris and the other representatives at Microsoft are doing is protecting an inferior technology. I think they want to dumb it down and keep it as pedestrian as possible so that if you want to do anything for Blu-ray or you have extra content above 9 gigs or you want to do anything of that nature, you’d better sure as heck remember that Microsoft can’t handle that, and that’s a huge problem with them.”

“We don’t do that. We don’t have any kind of policy like that. We’re not pushing that. In fact, we’ve gone the other way to try and encourage publishers through our Pub Fund… We want to welcome the indies and we’ve seen that become a very big part of our business because indies are recognizing that we aren’t demanding a pound of flesh in order for them to get a game published on our network.”

“So potentially any time we’ve gone out and negotiated exclusive content of things that we’ve announced at things like DPS or E3, publishers are getting the living crap kicked out of them by Microsoft because they are doing something for the consumer that is better on our platform than it might be perceived on theirs.”

It seems that this row may continue for some time – Microsoft see it as them protecting their customers. Sony see it as Microsoft protecting their console at the cost of the industries’ potential and the satisfaction of PS3 owners. Given the tone of Sony’s response, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft attack back, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated with the twists and turns of this story which fundamentally affects the games you play on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

So, what do you think, are Microsoft doing what is best for their consumers? Is this policy bad for the industry? And are Sony justified in hitting out against this policy?

Sources: [Eurogamer article | Eurogamer interview | IndustryGamers interview]

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