Crossplay has been an extremely contentious issue for gaming over the last decade — and while we’re now reaching a point where companies are able and willing to work together, it’s been a long, difficult road towards making it happen. Now, thanks to the ongoing Epic Games v. Apple court case, we know more about this struggle and how Sony really feels about letting players game with their friends.
Sony currently allows crossplay on certain games including Fortnite, but it was a mammoth task to get the company involved (and happy) with the arrangement. In 2018, the company blocked crossplay for Fortnite when the game was at its peak, leading to major backlash and complaints from angry players. While the reason at the time was unclear, emails unearthed during the recent court case reveal Sony was against crossplay because it couldn’t see a benefit for the company.
“Cross-platform play is not a slam dunk no matter the size of the title,” Gio Corsi, senior director of developer relations at Sony told Epic at the time. “Many companies are exploring this idea and not a single one can explain how cross-console play improves the PlayStation business.”
This was in response to an Epic proposal which would have seen the company “go out of its way to make Sony look like heroes” for enabling crossplay. But despite a strongly worded email and a promise that Epic wasn’t going to change its mind, Sony refused to enable crossplay until around August 2019.
The catalyst for this change of heart appears to have been a payment agreement between Epic and Sony which guarantees Sony royalties when PlayStation players contribute a set amount of revenue to cross-platform games like Fortnite. This cross-platform revenue share formula is worked out based on the following equation, according to documents obtained by The Verge: “Cross-Platform Revenue Share = [(Cross-Platform Revenue across all Cohorts x PS4 Gameplay Share) – PSN Revenue] x [15%]”
Tim Sweeney, Epic Games CEO, confirmed in a court testimony on Tuesday that Sony is the only platform holder requiring this kind of compensation to enable crossplay. “In certain circumstances Epic will have to pay additional revenue to Sony,” Sweeney said. But there’s greater complications at work. “If somebody were primarily playing on PlayStation, but paying on iPhone then this might trigger compensation.”
In addition to this quirk, Sony also requires an in-built option to disable all cross-platform interactions and stipulates no virtual currency can be transferred to or from PlayStation.
Everyone games on different consoles, and some game on multiple. In 2021, there’s no reason crossplay shouldn’t be an acceptable and workable part of modern gaming. But it appears Sony remains reluctant to lose potential revenue in the battle for crossplay despite its long-standing “For The Players” slogan.
While the outcome of the Epic Games v. Apple case is a long way off, it’s likely we’ll learn more about the company and the inner workings of the games industry as it progresses.