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Is Sony’s Fortnite decision all about the money?

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An ex-Sony developer weighs in

Fortnite - player with gunsight helmet Epic Games

Fortnite is available on Windows PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and mobile devices. Every platform except the PS4 allows for cross-platform play, and playing with your account on the PS4 means that you can’t use that account on the Nintendo Switch or Xbox One. This is a situation that continues to anger fans, and Sony has done a horrible job addressing the controversy.

John Smedley used to be the president of Daybreak Game Company, which was once called Sony Online Entertainment. He’s now the general manager of Amazon Game Studios, but this is an individual who can speak about Sony’s policies and culture with a lot of authority. And he supports the efforts to get Sony to break down the rules prohibiting cross-platform play.

Smedley has also posted what he thinks is the logic behind Sony’s stubbornness in this area.

Do we buy this explanation?

I buy it, absolutely. Sony has the most to lose and the least to gain from cross-platform play, and “poisoning” Fortnite accounts to keep them from working on Nintendo Switch and Xbox One is a good way to keep everyone’s bucket of money separate.

It also seems like Nintendo, at least to some extent, is protecting itself as well. I have 3,000 V-Bucks on my Epic Games account, which I purchased on PC. I can only access 800 V-Bucks on my account on the Nintendo Switch, for whatever reason. If I buy a Battle Pass or a piece of equipment on any other system, I can access it on every other system except the PlayStation 4, but it seems like the digital currency purchased on one platform doesn’t move to every other platform on a one-to-one basis.

This is my experience at least, and I’m curious to hear if you’ve noticed any issues with your V-Bucks on a platform-by-platform basis. Drop by the comments!

So why would each platform care where you bought the V-Bucks? Because that’s where the money is made.

Fortnite is a free-to-play game, which is one of the reasons it has become so huge. You can buy cosmetic items and the Battle Pass, of course, and you need to buy V-Bucks, the game’s currency, to do so.

You buy V-Bucks directly through the game’s client on PC, but that’s one of the few platforms where that’s possible. You have to buy through the Xbox Live marketplace on Xbox One, and Microsoft takes a cut of each sale. On PlayStation 4, you have to go through the PlayStation Store, and Sony gets a cut. The publisher agreement you have to sign to release a game on these platforms requires you to go through the official storefront from each company to sell virtual currency.

Epic Games would of course love to sell V-Bucks directly through the game client on every platform, but in that situation, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would be helping Fortnite grow without having any way to profit from having the game on their platforms.

So it’s possible that even platforms that allow cross-platform play may be trying to restrict you from buying V-Bucks on one platform and spending them on another. It looks like Nintendo has enacted some form of this policy on the Switch, and Sony has taken it the farther possible extreme by trying to make sure as few Epic accounts as possible can be used on other platforms.

It makes sense, but of course we won’t know what’s going with any amount of certainty until someone at one of these companies discusses the situation, and so far no one at Epic, Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo seems willing to discuss specifics.