Epic Games and Xbox discussed dropping Xbox Live Gold requirement for F2P games last year, emails reveal

Epic Games head honcho Tim Sweeney petitioned Xbox boss Phil Spencer to ditch Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold requirement for free-to-play games last summer.

The exchange is one of several revealing, private emails sent between company top brass made public as part of the ongoing Apple vs Epic Games trial.

Last August, Sweeney emailed Spencer to suggest Microsoft drop the F2P Xbox Live Gold firewall and time it alongside Fortnite’s Marvel season launch and permanent V-Bucks price-drop.

“Hi Phil,” Sweeney wrote. “Long ago, we talked optimistically about the possibility of subscription-free multiplayer on Xbox. (PlayStation requires subscriptions for multiplayer but exempts free-to-play games including Fortnite.)

“If this is coming, please consider the possibility of timing the program to support Fortnite Season 14 launch on 8/27. This launch will follow the confidential Fortnite Mega Drop 20 percent price drop that’s coming in mid-August, and will be our biggest and best Fortnite season thanks to a huge collaboration with Disney/Marvel.

“Epic has certain plans for August that will provide an extraordinary oppurtunity to highlight the value proposition of consoles and PCs, in contrast to mobile platforms, and to onboard new console users. While I can’t share details with any third party at this point, I give you Epic’s assurance that our efforts will be positive and supportive of Microsoft, Xbox and Windows.

“I realise this is incomplete information and you have a big ship that’s slow to turn, so the specific ask if: please keep in mind this possibility for 8/27 and expect events throughout August to draw the specific oppurtunity into focus. Tim.”

Spencer’s response was that Microsoft was “committed to pushing” on this, and that “we will get there” on dropping the Xbox Live Gold requirement for F2P games – which, of course, the company finally did earlier this year as part of its U-turn on a Gold subscription price hike.

Interestingly, Spencer also noted he hadn’t “given up” on getting xCloud on other consoles – something still yet to materialise, even as Microsoft rolls out its browser-based solution to work on PCs and iPhones.

“Totally understood!” Sweeney replied back. “I gather there’s a lot going on at Microsoft nowadays. [emoji] Anyway, you’ll enjoy the upcoming fireworks show. Tim.”

Further emails published as part of the Apple vs Epic Games trial include some other amusing asides.

This includes a seemingly-random message from Sweeney to Apple boss Tim Cook back in 2015, long before the two companies were at loggerheads, and also before Fortnite’s statospheric success, where Sweeney offers some unprovoked ideas for the iOS App Store.

“Hi Tim, Y’all should think about separating iOS App Store curation from compliance review and app distribution,” the email begins. If Cook responded, it’s not in the court documentation. Instead, Cook can be seen to have emailed a couple of Apple execs, confused as to who Sweeney was.

“Is this the guy that was at one of our rehearsals?” Cook wrote. Ouch.

Finally, there’s also a 2019 email from Sweeney to Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot, offering an apology for Epic’s bungled launch of Uplay integration on the Epic Games store.

“Dear Yves,” Sweeney wrote. “I’m writing to apologise for the shortcomings in our Epic Games store implementation and our Uplay integration.

“In the past 48 hours, the rate of fraudulent transactions on Division 2 surpassed 70 percent and was approaching 90 percent. Sophisticated hackers were creating Epic accounts, buying Ubisoft games with stolen credit cards, and then selling the linked Uplay accounts faster than we were disabling linked Uplay purchases for fraud.

“Fraud rates for other Epic games store titles are under two percent and Fortnite is under one percent. So 70 percent fraud was an extraordinary situation.”

Sweeney informed Guillemot that Ubisoft games had been made unavailable to purchase while the issue was fixed, but that it would likely take at least two weeks. “I’m sorry for the trouble,” he signed off.

The ongoing Epic vs Apple court proceedings have also revealed how much Epic pays for free games on its store and detailed swathes of cancelled/postponed upcoming Fortnite content – including a potential crossover with Metroid, and a possible upcoming survival simulator mode.