Almost immediately after Fortnite landed on Switch last week, players all around the world showed their outrage online at Sony's bizarre restrictions regarding cross-platform play. As you may be aware, users who have played the game on PS4, potentially spending a hefty sum on of money and unlocking various content in the game, are not permitted to play using their account on their Nintendo Switch. Effectively, Sony has locked all purchases, save data, and therefore players' time and money, onto its own system, preventing its customers from continuing the game on another console.
It feels unethical, especially considering Fortnite is actually Epic Games' property rather than Sony's, and you'd be forgiven for wondering whether the practice is even legal. Unfortunately, it appears that there is no answer to the issue, either, as current laws fail to acknowledge the problem whatsoever.
Speaking with Variety, Professor of Law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Aaron Perzanowski, has explained some of the finer details behind the situation.
A section of Fortnite's End User License Agreement (EULA) reads: “regardless of any references Epic may make outside this Agreement to purchasing or selling Game Currency or Content, both Game Currency and Content are licensed, not sold, to you under the License". This essentially means that Epic is technically only licensing (or lending) its content to players, and even though purchases are described as "sales", Epic doesn't ever actually transfer ownership of its content to consumers.
Of course, the ridiculous length and wording of license agreements deter users from ever reading them, and this allows organisations to get away with seemingly dodgy practices in a technically legal and honest manner. Despite this, though, Epic does not seem to be taking advantage of any potential loopholes created here; Fortnite can be played and transferred freely across all systems with no issues apart from Sony's PS4, suggesting that Sony is the one using these legalities to its advantage - and this is something that Perzanowski agrees with, too.
"In this case, it looks like Sony is the one standing in the way of portability. Assuming Epic is opposed to that move, its ability to stand up for consumers turns largely on the nature of its contractual relationship with Sony. If Sony insists on this sort of authority, which wouldn’t surprise me, Epic could try to pressure Sony publicly or privately, but it may not have much in the way of legal recourse against Sony.”
Another part of the EULA states that “Except as otherwise prohibited by applicable law, Epic, in its sole discretion, has the absolute right to manage, modify, substitute, replace, suspend, cancel or eliminate Game Currency or Content, including your ability to access or use Game Currency or Content". If Epic has "sole discretion" over its content, why does Sony have any say in the matter? Does this mean that Epic has some kind of contractual obligation in place to keep Sony happy?
It's frankly impossible to know, and it seems that a lack of laws surrounding the subject means that this practice is fine to go ahead. With a potential rise in popularity projected for digital services in gaming such as season passes, streaming, and licensing content, perhaps it's time to have some more concrete laws put in place to protect all parties?
Have you been affected by Sony's Fortnite restrictions? Do you think this situation seems unfair to consumers? As ever, feel free to share your thoughts and feelings on the matter with us in the comments below.