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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In 2019, Epic Games agreed to a special deal getting a skeptical Sony to let PlayStation customers compete against Xbox gamers.

Why it matters: It was never clear why one of gaming's most frustrating barriers fell two years ago, especially given Sony's obvious, public resistance to cross-platform play.

  • Epic agreed to give Sony a cut of revenues the former earned from "Fortnite" players on rival platforms, if those players bought in-game items on other platforms while largely playing on PlayStation.
  • "If someone primarily were playing on PlayStation but paying on iPhone, then this might trigger compensation to Sony," Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said during cross examination by Apple's lawyers.

The big picture: Gaming has always operated with certain platform-based divides, especially among the big three console makers.

  • Top Nintendo-made games don't run on PlayStations or Xboxes, for example. And, until recently, if you played a multi-platform game online on one company's device, you couldn’t connect with players using other consoles.

That changed in 2018, as Microsoft and Nintendo began to allow cross-play for "Minecraft."

  • Sony, which had the biggest market share, resisted even as Epic pushed for the barriers to fall for "Fortnite." They relented in 2019.
  • "Sony was worried about giving Xbox a competitive edge by allowing it," Epic's Joe Kreiner said in a deposition.

Between the lines: Court documents first reported by The Verge show that Epic urged Sony to allow crossplay in 2018, saying it could go "out of its way to make Sony look like heroes."

  • Sony asked the court yesterday to seal those filings, saying they could be used to PlayStation's "detriment if exposed."
  • Back on the stand today, Sweeney acknowledged that he'd emailed Sony in June of 2018, telling a PlayStation exec, "Frankly, we do not believe Sony's position is even legal."

Go deeper

Xbox and Nintendo show off indie games

"Toem." Screenshot: Something We Made

Microsoft and Nintendo deluged fans over the last two days with showcases focusing on indie games about everything from farming in mech suits to boyfriends that turn into weapons.

Why it matters: These showcases reinforce the idea that there are great reasons to play an Xbox or Switch beyond whatever heavily-marketed mega-games are on the release schedule.

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.