Epic urged Microsoft to open up its Xbox network to free multiplayer gaming just weeks before the Apple and Fortnite struggle. In the weeks leading up to Epic Games’ decision to bypass Apple’s 30 percent rebate Fortnite in-app purchases, CEO Tim Sweeney emailed Xbox chief Phil Spencer teasing something big and asking if Microsoft could play free multiplayer with Fortnite season 14.
“Epic has plans for August that provide an extraordinary opportunity to highlight the value proposition of consoles and PCs, as opposed to mobile platforms, and bring new console users on board,” said Sweeney. “While I am unable to share details with third parties at this time, I give you Epic’s assurance that our efforts will be positive and support Microsoft, Xbox and Windows.”
Sweeney also asked Spencer if free Xbox Live multiplayer was coming, and if Microsoft could time it to provide support Fortnite season 14, the season Epic Games launched its alternative payment method that got Fortnite kicked off in the App Store.
Spencer replied that “we will get there and I want to work with you,” and that enforcing this policy was “top-level” at Microsoft, but implied that Xbox Live was not yet ready for free multiplayer. “Completely understood!” Sweeney said in response. “I understand that a lot is happening at Microsoft these days. Either way, you will enjoy the upcoming fireworks display. “
The timing of the email is provocative given the events that followed. Had Spencer agreed to the plan, it seems likely that Xbox could have opened up Fortnite to non-Gold subscribers at the same time Apple shut down the game completely.
The fireworks show that Sweeney promised definitely started when Fortnite Season 14 has launched and it has since led to Epic Games taking Apple to court in an ongoing lawsuit. Microsoft finally unlocked Xbox Live free-to-play multiplayer last month, but it wasn’t as easy as Epic Games had hoped.
Microsoft’s abolition of the Xbox Live Gold requirement came after the company was forced to reverse a price hike on its Xbox Live Gold subscriptions earlier this year. Microsoft had tried to double the cost of an annual Xbox Live Gold subscription, a move that failed. Microsoft quickly reversed the decision and offered to remove the paywall for free-to-play multiplayer games.