Ah, the ol’ Epic Games and Apple lawsuit strikes yet again! New spreadsheet slides seemingly imply that Sony is charging developers to implement crossplay with PlayStation platforms – but as is often the case with these legalities, that’s not technically true. You may recall a Resident Evil Village clause had Twitter ablaze a few weeks ago, only for the actual language to be totally misinterpreted.
So, what’s going on here? Well, the document refers to something called ‘Cross-Platform Revenue Share’, and it’s basically a clause that ensures Sony is paid royalties by developers if there’s a disproportionate ratio between PlayStation playtime and overall game revenue in a crossplay release. You’re still confused, aren’t you?
So, let’s imagine Fortnite flogs $1,000,000 worth of V-Bucks in a month, but only $50,000 was spent through the PS Store. That’s just 5 per cent of the game’s overall revenue being purchased through PlayStation, right? Now let’s pretend that, in this scenario, 75 per cent of Fortnite’s overall playtime was on PS5 and PS4. In that case, the publisher would be required to pay Sony royalties based on the total revenue earned and PlayStation’s overall gameplay share.
Why, you may be asking, is Sony doing this? Well, because if 75 per cent of Fortnite’s playtime is being played through PSN but only 5 per cent of its revenue is being earned on Sony’s storefront, then the clause exists to protect the platform holder, as it’s providing the infrastructure and player base while others, in this example, would be profiting from it.
But, let’s say that Fortnite is generating $1,000,000 of revenue a month, and $900,000 is being spent on the PS Store. That’s 90 per cent of the game’s overall revenue. So, what if 95 per cent of the game’s playtime is being logged on PlayStation? Well, in this scenario, developers wouldn’t have to pay royalties because it falls within the boundaries of what Sony considers to be fair.
It’s an interesting clause, but it makes sense from PlayStation’s perspective: if it’s providing the majority of the playerbase, then it stands to reason that it would expect a roughly comparative share of the revenue. It’s worth noting that, for the vast majority of people, they’re most likely to purchase microtransactions on the system they play on, so we’d be shocked if there was ever a large enough difference between revenue share and gameplay time to enforce royalties on a developer.
The way this has been framed on social media has been misleading, with many believing that Sony is charging developers to implement crossplay in the first place. Based on the slide, this is not the case. It’s also worth stressing that these documents are dated 2019, and the company is yet to comment whether this clause still exists or not.