Epic's Cross-Play Pressure Campaign On PlayStation Revealed in Court Documents

An email exchange just before E3 2018 shows how Epic CEO Tim Sweeney was using all the tools at his disposal to force cross-play concessions from Sony.

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The Epic Games v Apple trial continues to spill out interesting details about other games companies and Epic's relationships with them. In a new trove of email documents, we get an inside look at Epic CEO Tim Sweeney pressuring Sony's Phil Rosenberg on enabling cross-play for Fortnite--with the help of the ticking clock of an impending E3.

"Many Fortnite players are kids, and their friendships are being torn apart by Sony's segregation of players on competing platforms," Sweeney said in an email dated June 1, 2018. He went on to argue that Sony's approach could violate European law, and that the company was "prepared to pursue this course with all available resources, wherever it leads us, and for however long." He implored Rosenberg to pass this message along to Tsuyoshi Kodera, then-president of Sony Interactive Entertainment.

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Rosenberg's response was to assure Sweeney he had forwarded the documents and was awaiting a response, after which Sweeney stressed impending announcements planned for E3. He said E3 was to be a "definitive" moment for Fortnite, with plans to announce the Switch port, esports details, and cross-purchase and cross-play across every platform except Sony's. But, he said, those plans could be changed if Sony made a firm commitment.

"We won't delay partner announcements by weeks or months on the mere hope of future Sony-Epic discussions being fruitful," Sweeney wrote. "If we could reach a definitive agreement on cross-console by E3, Epic would be very flexible on the timing of announcing cross-console and even all console esports. We'd ideally like to announce both at E3, but could delay announcement or implementation of either or both to allow more time to sort out the details."

Rosenberg once again expressed skepticism that Sony could reach a decision by E3, as it was only a week away. Near the end of the email exchange, Sweeney made a note about his tone.

"In processing tone and thoughts in these emails please understand that Epic much prefers, and we assume Sony also prefers, to have the frankest possible policy discussions in private now than to have any sort of public conflict later," he said.

Epic ultimately did announce its Fortnite Switch port at E3 2018, and predictably enough, Sony had to address the backlash from fans over its refusal to enable cross-play on its platform. Sony ultimately relented later in 2018.

This is the second big reveal of new information about Epic's work behind the scenes with Sony during the time period, the first of which came in a newly revealed set of emails on Monday. All of this ostensibly relates to the Epic v Apple trial, as the evidence is being presented to show various Epic partner relationships. But it's also an interesting look behind-the-scenes at how Epic has leveraged the popularity of Fortnite in its business relationships.

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