Epic boss says Sony charges publishers a cross-play fee in certain circumstances
Now it all makes sense.
Epic boss Tim Sweeney has said Sony requires compensation from publishers for cross-play in certain circumstances.
In explosive comments made during the opening day of the Epic vs Apple trial, Sweeney said Epic agreed to the fees in order to get crossplay going in Fortnite.
"In certain circumstances Epic will have to pay additional revenue to Sony," Sweeney said, as reported by The Verge.
"If somebody were primarily playing on PlayStation, but paying on iPhone then this might trigger compensation."
The Verge also reports that Sony's policy stipulates publishers can't transfer virtual currency to or from PlayStation, and there must be a setting to disable all cross-platform interactions.
The Verge also says Sweeney confirmed Sony is the only platform holder that requires this compensation for crossplay.
Eurogamer has asked Sony for comment.
Sony only enabled crossplay on PlayStation 4 games back in September 2018 after enormous public pressure and negative press that had ramped up over the course of a year.
The pressure had spiked with the launch of battle royale phenomenon Fortnite on the Nintendo Switch, and the revelation you weren't able to use your existing Fortnite account on Nintendo's console if you had already used it on PS4.
Speaking on the issue, then PlayStation Worldwide Studios boss Shawn Layden pointed to technical, business and customer service issues the company had to sort out.
"We know this is a want, this is a desire, and we want to be able to deliver that in the best way possible," he said. "Now, enabling cross-play isn't just about flipping a switch and 'there you go'. It's a very multi-dimensional kind of attribute or feature.
"So we had to look at it from a technical point of view, we have to work with our partners from a business point of view, we have to make sure that if we enable this, do we have the right customer service support, do we have the right messaging out there, do we have all these different things that you have to get in line. It's rather ordinal - they have to go in a certain order to get them all set up."
Emails released as part of the Epic versus Apple trial now reveal the internal business discussions that went on before Sony enabled crossplay.
A remarkable email conversation between Joe Kreiner, Epic's vice president of business development, and Gio Corsi, Sony's then senior director of developer relations, reveals Epic's attempt to convince Sony to press the go button on crossplay.
"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," Kreiner says in the email, before going on to offer a list of proposals to help convince Sony to play ball.
"We announce crossplay in conjunction with Sony. Epic goes out of its way to make Sony look like heroes," is one bullet point.
Point number seven points out Sony's company wide Unreal Engine 4 licence was due to expire in May 2019.
"Let's make this a huge win for us all," Kreiner writes, in conclusion. "Epic's not changing its mind on the issue, so let's just agree on it now."
It appears Sony did not agree at the time, however.
"Cross-platform play is not a slam dunk no matter the size of the title," Corsi responds. "As you know, many companies are exploring this idea and not a single one can explain how cross-console play improves the PlayStation business."
This leads us on to Sony's fee for cross-play on PlayStation. The Verge has published a document revealing Sony's cross-platform revenue share, and it reveals how Sony works out how much to charge.
The publisher pays Sony a royalty fee "to offset the reduction in revenue" only if the proportion of PSN revenue share divided by PS4 gameplay share for a title is less than 85 percent in any given month.
Sony offers a calculation example. Let's say for the month, cross-platform revenue is $1m, and of that PSN revenue was $900,000 (90 percent of revenue). If the PS4 gameplay share was 95 percent, the publisher would pay Sony nothing. (90 divided by 95 equals 0.94 - so, greater than 85 percent.)
But if in the same month, only $600,000 of the $1m revenue was PSN revenue (so, 60 percent of revenue), and the PS4 gameplay share was still 95 percent, the publisher would have to pay Sony $52,500 (60 divided by 95 equals 0.63 - so, less than 85 percent).
This policy only kicks in if a game exceeds $500,000 in gross PSN revenue within a 12-month period, so smaller games potential avoid having to pay a feee.
It's important to note this document is dated August 2019, so the detail of this policy may be outdated. But Sweeney's comments during the trial yesterday confirm Sony still retains this policy at least in principle - and is the only platform holder to do so.
The trial continues.