Sony is investing $250 million into Fortnite maker Epic games to purchase a minority stake in the company, according to a joint announcement both companies released today.
That doesn’t make Epic an official second party developer for Sony (think of the relationship Nintendo has to Pokémon developer Game Freak), but it does pave the way for both Sony and Epic to “broaden their collaboration,” according to the announcement.
$250 million only gives Sony a 1.4% stake in Epic, which a recent Bloomberg report valued at about $17 billion overall, so don’t expect Epic to stop making titles for your best gaming PC, Xbox or even Nintendo Switch anytime soon. Still, the deal is a step forward for the relationship between both companies. After all, it’s not every day that a major console manufacturer buys part of a game dev known for cross-platform support, let alone the developer of the world’s biggest game.
Beyond Fortnite, Epic Games is also known for making the Unreal Engine, a popular game development tool across PC and all three major consoles. In fact, Epic recently unveiled the Unreal Engine 5 demo, the next iteration of the tool, running on a PlayStation 5 (PS5). That might have been a precursor to the company’s “collaboration” with Sony that we’re seeing now.
Whether this deal means that Sony will encourage more PS5 games to use Unreal Engine 5 or that Epic will once again focus more on console than PC, we can’t say. Though Unreal Tournament, Fortnite and the Epic Games Store all point to a storied PC history at Epic, the Gears of War franchise (ironically a Microsoft exclusive) shows that Epic is adept at developing for console as well. Still, Microsoft bought Gears of War outright in 2014, so Epic would have to make a new IP if it plans on making new games for the PS5, exclusive or not.
What we can say is that this isn’t the first time Epic has sought out funding from bigger publishers. In 2012, just a year after buying League of Legends developer Riot Games, Chinese company TenCent bought a 40% stake in the company. That’s still a minority stake (though much larger than Sony’s) but does show that Epic isn’t exactly a walled garden when it comes to working with larger companies.
We ultimately don’t know what immediate benefit this holds for Sony, aside from holding stock in a profitable developer. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see Epic continue to announce future tech and games on the PS5 first in the future.