About an hour ago a story comes out of the historic Epic V. Apple case due to the huge amount of material published and leaked on the internet. But in a sea of groundbreaking developments as Epic runs through an x-ray machine comes a revelation about Sony and its stance on cross-play.
Fortnite has cross-play and cross-progression between all of its platforms, including iOS, is a key part of Epic’s case, so they had to explain how it worked. And in doing so, they revealed that Sony is the only company they have had to make a special deal with that involves an occasional payment if the revenue split does not meet certain stipulations, which Sony says. seems not to have wanted to be made public.
The eye-catching part of this deal is the email exchange that preceded it, with neither company doing well.
Here’s Sony’s Gio Corsi, which departs from the public’s argument against cross-play that mostly involves technical hurdles and customer service:
“As you know, there are many companies exploring this idea and not one can explain how multi-console gaming improves the PlayStation business.”
And Epic’s Joe Kreiner, calling Sony a knee bend as inevitable:
“I can’t think of a scenario where Epic doesn’t get what we want – that possibility faded when Fortnite became the biggest game on PlayStation.”
Again, a certain ego on both sides there, and therefore a compromise was made. Sony’s main problem appears to be gamers who spend the vast majority of their time playing the game on PlayStation, but spend a large chunk of their money on a different platform like iOS or PC. So the deal was that in those situations, when spending and playing time didn’t add up on PlayStation, Epic would have to pay to partially make up the difference.
Epic actually explains the exact math in a slide in their presentation:
- PSN revenue share divided by PSN game share must be less than 0.85
- So if PSN players spend $ 1 million on all platforms, including $ 900,000 on PSN, Epic doesn’t pay anything because it’s over 0.85.
- But if PSN players spend $ 1 million on all platforms and only $ 600,000 of that amount is on PSN, Epic pays Sony a royalty of $ 52,000 because it’s less than 0.85.
Tim Sweeney came out and confirmed that Sony is the only platform that demanded a deal like this, raising questions about other developers that Sony has a similar deal with in terms of other titles that support cross-play.
Sony is posing as the bad guy here, and yet, from their perspective, their position… kind of makes sense. When you have such a huge setup base, you want to use it to your advantage for even more snowballing. You don’t want PlayStation gamers playing with their friends on Switch or Xbox, you want that person to convince those friends to buy two more PlayStations in order to play with them. But that notion is getting more and more outdated, and Epic was right that cross-play was here to stay. Whether Sony will be able to continue charging royalties like this in these specific revenue cases remains to be seen.
This whole essay is a fascinating look at the inner workings of the industry, and I would expect many more developments to follow. Stay tuned.
I have contacted Sony for feedback on the cross play and will update if I hear back.
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