Sony can charge publishers for cross-play compensation, Epic Games reveal in court

Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney has revealed that Sony can extract compensation from game publishers that implement cross-play in their video games, though this only comes into effect in certain circumstances.

The revelation came as part of the first day of the Epic Games vs. Apple court case, with Sweeney’s time on the stand detailing how the Fortnite developer relentlessly pushed Sony to allow them to implement cross-play for their game. Sony dragged their heels on the matter, given the dominance of the PlayStation 4 on the market, but eventually did allow for cross-play in certain games.

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In what Sweeney confirms is a unique arrangement across the industry, we now know that this is dependent on a game’s developer or publisher agreeing to compensation if the game’s revenue on PlayStation dips significantly below the portion of the player base on the platform. In order to lessen the impact of being able to buy Fortnite V-Bucks directly from Epic, as a pertienent example, if there’s a disparity of 15%, then Sony will take a 15% cut from the shortfall, splitting the difference on their flat 30% fee on PSN transactions. This is calculated per territory, on a monthly bases, and gives Sony the right to audit the publisher’s accounts to ensure they’re not being cut out.

In an example provided through court documents (which should have remained confidential, but… didn’t), a game that makes $1,000,000 per month and with 95% PS4 gameplay share would be fine if the PSN revenue share was 90%. However, if this dipped to 60% the following month, they would have to pay 15% the difference to Sony.

 

In the emailed conversation between Epic’s Business Development head Joe Kreiner and Sony’s then Senior Director of Developer Relations Gio Corsi, Epic forced the cross-play issue. Kreiner said, “I can’t think of a scenario where Epic doesn’t get what we want – that possibility went out the door when Fortnite became the biggest game on PlayStation,” before outlining an array of measures that would strengthen the company’s public ties and promotional material to the PlayStation brand, however, Corsi fired back saying that “cross-platform play is not a slam dunk no matter the size of the title,” and that “many companies are exploring this idea and not a single one can explain how cross-console play improves the PlayStation business.”

Essentially, Sony saw absolutely no need to open up to cross-play from their industry leading position, so why did they change their mind? Three months after the June 2018 emails, Sony was facing persistent criticism for its policy on cross-play and enabled a limited cross-play beta starting with Fortnite. This, it seems, was their way of testing the waters to see the impact that it would have on their bottom line, using Epic as the willing guinea pig.

This court case is giving us a fascinating look behind the curtain of some pivotal moments and business decisions  over the last few years, though I’m sure Sony thrilled that Epic’s vendetta against Apple is airing their laundry out in public…

Epic Games vs. Apple (via The Verge)

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3 Comments

  1. Epic seem to manage to keep making themselves look worse all the time.

    That email with the bit that is really just “Nice UE4 license you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it” is great.

    It has all confirmed that Sony insist on having the option to turn off cross-play in any game that has it. Which is just sensible.

    Epic really are in trouble if they lose though. Which they deserve to. Who will want to work with them again after all that stuff ends up being revealed in court next time they decide they want more money?

    • In fairness, there’s a lot of these details emerging that were meant to be kept confidential, but the courts messed up and they’ve now been made public. This is one such case that was meant to be considered a trade secret.

  2. Is Corsi really that stupid?! Say a few friends all play a game on xbox & pc and another friend on PlayStation wants to join them – so he buys the game just to play with his friends. If cross play wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t have bought the game. Simple really, you’d think some highly paid exec could figure it out.

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