Sony deal bans Final Fantasy XVI and VII Remake from Xbox with "exclusion" agreement, says Microsoft

The ongoing legal battle over if Microsoft's Xbox division should be allowed to acquire Activision Blizzard continues to rage on - and the back and forth between the companies continues to provide revealing tidbits on some of the inner workings of the games industry. The latest development? A little hint at what's going on with the multi-platform potential of recent Final Fantasy games.

Microsoft's strike back at Sony filed with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) makes reference to Final Fantasy XVI and Final Fantasy VII Remake, alongside Bloodborne and the recently announced Silent Hill 2 Remake. 

"Exclusivity strategies are not uncommon in the games industry," the section of the response (section 3.67 in the full document) in question begins, before impressing that Sony has "entered into arrangements with third-party publishers which require the "exclusion" of Xbox from the set of platforms these publishers can distribute their games on."

The statement goes on to reference the games listed above specifically as "prominent examples" of such arrangements, noting that the agreements have taken place between Sony and Square Enix, FromSoftware, and Konami/Bloober Team.  

For Final Fantasy fans and the role-playing hardcore, this is an interesting reveal - and it finally sheds light on what is likely going on with Final Fantasy VII Remake beyond PC and PlayStation. In the previous generation, Square Enix made a strong commitment to Xbox, releasing both Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV on the platform, as well as a range of smaller games. Even many initial PlayStation exclusives like Nier Automata eventually made their way to Xbox. But in recent years, that commitment appears to have waned.

Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced with a flourish of "play it first on PlayStation", but this later appeared to blossom into full exclusivity. After one year of PS4 exclusivity, Square Enix released the Intergrade version of the game on PS5. This enjoyed six months of PS5 exclusivity before heading to the PC's Epic Game Store, where another six months passed before it landed on Steam.

We're now over a year from FF7 Remake Intergrade's first PC release, but there's been nary a whiff of an Xbox release.

The suggestion in Microsoft's claim, which was first spotted by an Xbox fan news account on twitter and then picked up by Eurogamer, is that the agreement between Sony and Square Enix for FF16 and FF7 Remake aren't just about timed exclusivity - but also demands that Xbox be 'excluded' from releases - which might explain why FF7 Remake came to PC, but remains off Xbox long after the advertised exclusivity windows have ended, while Square goes ahead and releases an FF7 prequel, Crisis Core, on Xbox. 

Bloodborne was published by Sony, of course, but the suggestion here is that FromSoftware could theoretically release it elsewhere with the help of another publisher, presuming the developer owns the game and its IP.

"Exclusivity strategies are not uncommon in the games industry and other market participants have access to their own content. Both Sony’s and Nintendo’s exclusive first-party games rank among the best-selling in Europe and worldwide. Current Sony exclusive content includes prominent first-party titles such as The Last of Us, Ghosts of Tsushima, God of War, and Spiderman.

In addition to having outright exclusive content, Sony has also entered into arrangements with third-party publishers which require the “exclusion” of Xbox from the set of platforms these publishers can distribute their games on. Some prominent examples of these agreements 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). Nintendo’s exclusive content includes well-established globally famous and iconic franchises such as Super Mario, Zelda, Xenoblade, Pokémon, and Animal Crossing."

Xbox's argument in this submission is that while Sony isn't reaching to acquire one of gaming's biggest publishing houses as it is with Activision, PlayStation still engages in practices that exclude content from other platforms.

Xbox, however, has its own RPG exclusives - including Starfield, which will release next year on Xbox and PC, but not on PlayStation. When Starfield was announced without platforms in 2018, it was years before Microsoft would purchase Bethesda parent company Zenimax - and so many assumed it'd come to all platforms. Now, however, post-acquisition, it's an Xbox exclusive.

Starfield is a new IP, but another hot topic question remains if The Elder Scrolls VI will be Xbox exclusive, too. Xbox fans also have a new Fable to look forward to. If the Activision deal closes, Xbox will also own Diablo and Warcraft. 

Sony hasn't responded to this specific claim - but the legal battle rages on. We don't know what Square Enix's plans are for Final Fantasy XVI yet - but we know its initial release, on June 22nd, will be PS5-only. The game's first trailer noted that it was captured on PC specced to match a PS5, so a PC version seems inevitable. Beyond that? Microsoft seem to think FF16 won't be coming to Xbox - but time will tell. We also already know that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth also as a PlayStation exclusivity deal - but again, don't yet have full details.

The CMA continues to consider the case, as well as feedback from outside paries, and will issue a final report on or before March 1st.