The trial between Epic and Apple, two mega-corporations both in and out of the gaming space, began today. As part of the trial, quite a lot of evidence and documentation has been made public, including Epic’s own internal communications with console partners like PlayStation. Contained within is PlayStation’s policies on crossplay, of which Epic is intimately familiar with as part of games like Fortnite, and it reveals some interesting bits of the way Sony handles developer requests for playing a game between platforms.
A slide, presumably from a PlayStation presentation and titled “Cross-Platform Revenue Share,” outlines the level of PlayStation support required of individual crossplay games.
This is confusing, so let’s take Fortnite as an example: with crossplay implemented, the audience (number of users playing on PlayStation) or revenue (amount of money spent on PlayStation) had to be at 0.85, or 85%, or the developer/publisher had to pay a royalty. These numbers are malleable and take into account playtime as a modifying factor of playtime — a game that only makes up 10% of its revenue on PlayStation does not need to pay if it also only makes up 10% of its audience play time on PlayStation. These numbers also only kick in if the revenue is $500,000 for a month total.
Basically what Sony is getting at here is that if people are playing the game on PlayStation but not spending an equal amount to what other platforms are spending, then the developer owes Sony a royalty, which is honestly just wild. It would also explain why some developers get hesitant about crossplay when a royalty could make the difference between profitability and not in, say, a niche fighting game.
Sony also reserves the right to audit a developer’s numbers if they don’t feel like their number reporting is accurate.
There’s three extremely important caveats here: while this was introduced in Epic’s evidence folder, there’s nothing necessarily saying this policy is ongoing. It could have ended a day ago or a year ago, it’s impossible to tell without any of the direct parties confirming. The second is that, well, it seems like it’s a policy that is actually working for PlayStation. Fortnite is making the vast majority of its money on PlayStation, so this is a policy that, which ethically dubious, does seem to make a lot of business sense for Sony as the market leader.
Finally, we also don’t know that this is a practice only Sony engages in. It’s a practice that only makes sense for them, but there’s no documentation on policies from other platform holders here. The only reason we got this one is that it was entered into evidence.
All that said, this might also explain why some games just don’t get crossplay even when it would benefit the game massively, and that’s kind of a frustrating thing to know.