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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

Apple v. Epic Games trial provides heavily redacted peek inside the industry

Photo: Microsoft

Court filings from the Apple and Epic Games faceoff offer a peek at the inner workings of some major players in gaming.

Why it matters: Gaming is as secretive an industry as it gets, and companies such as Microsoft are locked into years-long competitive cycles against the likes of Nintendo and Sony.

Legal fight with Apple exposes Epic Games' inner workings

Image from a 2020 internal Epic Games presentation to Apple. Screenshot: Epic Games

Epic Games paid $146 million to exclusively sell "Borderlands 3" as it splurged to make its nascent Epic Games Store competitive with dominant PC gaming marketplace Steam, according to documents revealed on day one of Epic's high-stakes trial against Apple.

Why it matters: The documents illustrate how Epic has fared the last few years during its extraordinary "Fortnite"-fueled run. If not for the trial, much of this info would never have been made public.

Ina Fried, author of Login
May 3, 2021 - Technology

The trial that will decide the future of Apple's App Store

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal court in Oakland will on Monday begin hearing Epic Games' antitrust suit against Apple, a case that could radically reshape the way iPhone apps and services are sold.

Why it matters: Fortnite maker Epic Games is asking the court to invalidate the entire business model behind the iOS ecosystem, seeking to bar Apple from requiring developers to use its in-app purchases for digital goods and services.