What you need to know
- Epic is currently fighting Apple in court.
- Many of the documents submitted as evidence are leaking to the public.
- Some of the information reveals emails between Xbox's Phil Spencer and Epic's CEO Tim Sweeney, discussing Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass for other consoles.
There's a courtroom battle currently raging between Epic Games and Apple, specifically in regards to how Apple's App Store policies are monopolistic and anti-competitive. Epic Games' landmark case against Apple is being watched by the entire gaming industry right now, stemming from a disagreement over how Apple takes a cut for all purchases made through its storefront, specifically with Epic Games' Fortnite.
Since court battles are a matter of public record, a lot of the evidence being submitted in this court case have made their way into the public sphere, giving us a unique insight into the inner workings and discussions between the big companies.
In the emails, Tim Sweeney CEO of Epic Games notes that Xbox lead Phil Spencer and he talked "optimistically" about eventually removing the paywall for Xbox Live Gold, although it seems as though this is in reference to Microsoft dropping the paywall for free to play games, such as Fortnite. Epic's Sweeney had hoped to line up Microsoft's removal of the free-to-play paywall with a big Fortnite reveal, which also coincided with the start of the big court case with Apple, and subsequent removal of Fortnite from iOS.
Additionally, Phil Spencer also noted that they "haven't given up" on getting Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming (xCloud) onto other consoles, i.e. like the Nintendo Switch. There have been rumors for a while about the possibility of Nintendo allowing some form of Xbox Game Pass onto its popular handheld consoles, although the business case might be hard to reconcile for Nintendo. If someone is using their Switch to play Xbox games, then they aren't necessarily spending their cash on Nintendo games. It's by no means outside the realm of possibility, however, if there's a way to create a win-win on both sides.
I've argued in the past about my belief that Xbox Live Gold's multiplayer paywall will eventually go free, given that it's a relic of the past and incongruous to their cross-play mission. Microsoft's marketing increasingly moves away from "Xbox Live Gold" as an entity, too. Everything is Xbox Game Pass now, essentially, adding credence to the idea of this vestigial aspect of the Xbox network eventually being removed. The emails reveal that, at the very least, it remains a topic of discussion among Microsoft's executive leadership team.
The reality is that modern consoles are subsidized by these types of subscription services, however, which is why they remain relatively cheap. Apple double-dips with high fees for developers, with high margins on its hardware for consumers too. Epic is essentially arguing against supply and demand, though — consumers are willing to pay the price of an iPhone, and developers seem to be (reluctantly) willing to pay the store cut fees as well. It remains to be seen who will emerge victorious in the court battle, but it sure is producing a lot of juicy confidential documents to read.