Business

Sony Charges Fees for Crossplay Support

Court documents showed Sony in an unflattering light, revealing the company’s efforts to disrupt losing money to other platforms.

The Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit was an eye-opener for the gaming industry. One of the more intriguing reveals was the fees Epic was paying Sony for cross-platform support. Court documents showed Sony in an unflattering light, revealing the company’s efforts to disrupt losing money to other platforms.

Cross-play is an asset for players who want to challenge gamers on different consoles. It’s also valuable for players with more than one device, especially with access to the travel-friendly Switch or mobile devices. But Sony didn’t want to encourage players to spend on other platforms.

It’s not unusual thinking. Any developers or publishers would be hesitant to include features without making a profit. What makes this unique is what Epic CEO Tom Sweeny revealed in his Epic v. Apple testimony: Sony is the only platform that demanded Epic pay the difference.

Forbes laid out the fees while reminding fans that Sony isn’t an outright villain, but a business. The PSN Revenue Share divided by PSN Gameplay Share must be less than 85% for the payments to kick in. If Sony has a more significant percentage of revenue, Epic doesn’t have to pay a cent. 

Epic’s presentation included a formula for fees: [(Cross-Platform Revenue Across All Cohorts X PS4 Share) – PSN Revenue) x 15%]. 

If you want to skip the math, the presentation example is easier to follow: If players spend a total of $1,000,000 across all devices, and $600,000 of that is on a Playstation, Epic must pay Sony $52,000.

Former Sony Online Entertainment president John Smedley said it best in a tweet: “They didn’t like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a PlayStation. Simple as that. Dumb reason, but there it is.”

In short, it’s all about the money, despite the vague reasons Sony representatives have previously mentioned. When Sony initially blocked cross-play for popular games like Rocket League and Minecraft, players were suspicious, as heavy-hitters Nintendo and Microsoft were already on board.

Sony initially implied that risk to player safety was one reason. In a 2017 interview with Eurogamer, Jim Ryan (PlayStation’s global sales and marketing head) mentioned exposing children to “external influences we have no ability to manage or look after.” The claim irked a few, as many saw through the deflection as a blatant cash grab. 

Days after Ryan’s interview, Xbox’s Phil Spencer told Giant Bomb at Nite that Microsoft’s inclusion of cross-play wasn’t a safety issue. Spencer said, “The fact that somebody would kind of make an assertion that somehow we’re not keeping Minecraft players safe…doesn’t seem healthy for anyone.”

Sony faced significant backlash in June 2018 from furious Fortnite players with their attempts to limit cross-play. Reddit fans appealed to Sony to unlock their Epic Games accounts for use on other devices. 

The criticism was due to Epic accounts linked to PSN usernames, blocking players from signing in on other platforms. While players could create new accounts, that would eliminate carrying over progress or purchases. Sony’s block isolated Fortnite players, forcing gamers to choose PlayStation only or cross-play on all other devices.

Sony caved to fan demands by launching the beta version of cross-play for Fortnite in September of 2018. The beta cross-play promised that progression and commerce would be allowed. Sony’s beta included PlayStation 4, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Mac operating systems.

Another ploy to appease players was Sony’s recent deal with Discord, a group chat service popularized by gamers. Sony will add Discord to the PS5 console in early 2022. The move demonstrates that Sony isn’t unaware that players want an expanded social experience, even if that means communicating with users on other platforms.

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