Sony may have finally allowed cross-platform play on Playstation in 2018, but it also charges publishers royalties in case Sony loses business to its console competitors, says Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney.
It’s another revelation surfacing in documents related to the ongoing Epic Games/Apple lawsuit, whose trial started on Monday. While both Nintendo and Microsoft were early adopters of cross-console play, via Epic Games’ Fortnite, Sony held out and consistently blocked Epic and other publishers from enabling it with the PlayStation 4 versions of their games.
Even Fortnite’s swelling popularity in 2018 wasn’t enough to budge Sony at first. In senior-level emails between Epic and Sony, revealed in the Epic v. Apple trial, and reported by The Verge, Epic was confident Sony would capitulate because Fortnite was the most popular game on PS4 at the time.
Joe Kreiner, the Epic executive in charge of business development, laid out an extensive plan with incentives to Sony, both to give it a PR boost for enabling cross-play and in the two companies’ business relationships. But Sony’s director of developer relations at the time wasn’t convinced that cross-console play would ever help the PlayStation business.
Eventually, in late 2018, Sony agreed to allow Fortnite players on PlayStation to play with other consoles. But a 2019 email, revealed in Epic Games’ lawsuit, sheds light on what it took to make that happen.
In the email, Sony outlines a pay structure that requires publishers to share revenue with Sony if the PlayStation 4’s “gameplay share” is less than 85%. As Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney put it during testimony, “if somebody were primarily playing on PlayStation, but paying on iPhone, then this might trigger compensation.” According to Sweeney, Epic had to agree to these terms for Sony to allow cross-platform play in Fortnite.
Opening up the PlayStation 4 to cross-platform play in 2018 was a watershed moment for console video gaming. Other huge games followed suit with cross-platform features, including Destiny 2, Call of Duty, and Apex Legends. In April, Sony-developed MLB The Show 21 launched for Xbox One and Xbox Series X, even, with cross-console play available.
Epic and Apple’s legal fight has given behind-the-scenes insight on more than just Sony’s cross-play stipulations. Other documents related to the case revealed how much Epic Games paid for free games that it gave away to promote the Epic Games Store, as well as how much it paid to secure exclusive PC distribution of Borderlands 3.