It has been revealed Sony demand publishers pay royalties on crossplay games where PlayStation players make up the majority of profit.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) had previously skirted around crossplay on major titles, with then President and CEO of SIE America and chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios Shawn Layden stating “We’re hearing it. We’re looking at a lot of the possibilities.” This came after SIE prevented those who linked their Epic Games account to PlayStation 4 to play Fortnite on Nintendo Switch in June 2018.
In September 2018, SIE Deputy President John Kodera announced they would be allowing crossplay between PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for select titles. While Layden said SIE was “open for business” in 2019, Chucklefish CEO Finn Brice claimed that he denied crossplay for PlayStation 4 version of Wargroove right up to release.
Discussions with Epic Games over Fortnite may have started what would later become SIE’s investment into Epic Games. Sony acquired a 1.4% stake in Epic Games for $250 million USD in July 2020, followed by an additional $200 million USD investment in April of this year.
Everything has come full circle; as it is this involvement that may have exposed an SIE secret, and Fortnite has once again caused them what is sure to be negative PR.
As reported by The Verge, the ongoing Apple vs. Epic Games court case has revealed confidential documents of SIE. The documents, months before Sony would decide to block crossplay with Fortnite, show Epic Games asking it to be allowed.
Epic Games attempted to sweeten the deal in numerous ways. This included data and marketing data that was previously requested, Sony’s eSports API becoming a feature in Unreal Engine 4, Epic Games “[going] out of its way to make Sony look like the heroes” by having them dictate the announcement details, Epic Games branding its next E3 presence with PlayStation, a game for the launch of their next VR platform, a PS Plus special offer for a month, and Epic Games extending the Unreal Engine 4 licence company-wide across Sony.
“Let’s make this a huge win for us all,” Epic Games Business Development Joe Kreiner proposes. “Epic’s not changing it’s mind on the issue, so let’s just agree on it now.” As aforementioned, SIE did not.
The Verge report that SIE’s then Senior Director of Developer Relations Gio Corsi dismissed the idea, noting “cross-platform play is not a slam dunk no matter the size of the title. […] As you know, many companies are exploring this idea and not a single one can explain how cross-console play improves the PlayStation business.”
In August 2019 this changed. In a document titled “cross-platform policy, requirements, and process;” SIE had already changed its mind and had a new approach; cross-platform revenue share. In short, publishers would have to pay SIE royalties to “offset the reduction in revenue” when a larger number of PlayStation players contributed to a game’s profits- not smaller.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney testified yesterday in court that SIE was the only platform that required compensation for crossplay, including to enable crossplay on Fortnite. “In certain circumstances Epic will have to pay additional revenue to Sony,” Sweeney stated. “If somebody were primarily playing on PlayStation, but paying on iPhone then this might trigger compensation.”
SIE’s policy also dictates that publishers cannot transfer virtual currency to or from PlayStation, and a setting to disable all cross-platform interaction must be provided.
While Epic Games took legal action against Apple for preventing them from selling Fortnite V-Bucks directly to players (and bypassing Apple); it seems Epic Games accepted SIE’s policies. The revenue share document was sent in August 2019, one month after SIE bought 1.4% stake in Epic Games.
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