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If Fortnite and Minecraft Can't Make Sony Support Cross-Play, Nothing Will

Microsoft and Nintendo sittin' in a tree, c-r-o-s-s-p-l-a-y-i-n-g.

Opinion by Caty McCarthy, .

Earlier today, Nintendo unleashed a new Minecraft commercial. It shows a split screen of two players working together in the same game of Minecraft, only they have different controllers in their hands: an Xbox One controller and two Joy Cons from the Switch joined together. The commercial is a celebration of cross-play, and how the functionality has finally come to the Nintendo Switch's port of Minecraft. It's like a diss track aimed squarely at Sony, but no one's explicitly calling Sony a deadbeat dad for having a secret kid or whatever.

But it's still laying the pressure on Sony, who have controversially stayed away from the majority of cross-play endeavors. Sony "winning" the great console race doesn't absolve it from drawing the ire from fans. One of the most notable PS4 games that features cross-play is the MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV, which is only available on PC and PlayStation 4. Last year in an interview with Eurogamer, PlayStation global sales and marketing head Jim Ryan noted that, "We're always open to conversations with any developer or publisher who wants to talk about it. Unfortunately it's a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders."

Earlier this week, former Daybreak Game Company president John Smedley tweeted (though he has since removed the tweet) that during his time at Sony the reason was simple: money. "When I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money," Smedley tweeted. "They didn't like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a Playstation. [S]imple as that. Dumb reason, but there it is." That, obviously, ties a little bit into the stakeholders conversation spurred by Ryan.

Ryan's interview in 2017 was in response to the then-recent news of both Minecraft and Rocket League offering cross-play between consoles (on the latter, only PS4 and PC or Xbox One and PC are possible for cross-play), with the exception of Sony. Ryan went on to point to the young demographic of Minecraft in particular, and that Sony has to be careful of "external influences." And yet Nintendo, perhaps the most kid-friendly and kid-centric console platform out there, has just made cross-play on Minecraft available. So what gives?

Minecraft and Fortnite Battle Royale are two of the biggest games in the world right now, and by offering cross-play across most platforms aside from PS4, hold the most sway in making Sony cave into cross-play, despite what stakeholders might say. Recently, Sony came under fire after new players discovered that they couldn't link their Epic Games account to the Switch version if it had been linked to a PS4 previously. Cross-play was already a hot button issue around last year's E3 2018, and with the latest news, the cross-play pot is now boiling over.

Sony doesn't really have anything to lose either. The excuses that have been offered over time—protecting the kids from unsavory adult players on other platforms, people not buying games on PS4—are "eh, okay"-worthy at best, skirting responsibility at worst. Even in an interview with Giant Bomb last year, Xbox boss Phil Spencer rejected the suggestion entirely. "The fact that somebody would kind of make an assertion that somehow we're not keeping Minecraft players safe," Spencer told the site during its E3 2017 live show. "I found—not only from a Microsoft perspective, but from a game industry perspective—like, I don't know why that has to become the dialogue. Like, that doesn’t seem healthy for anyone."

More and more games are leaning on an online service to sustain its longevity. Sometimes it's MMOs or shooters, other times it's arcade car-soccer games like Rocket League. With games as services being a big trend in the industry right now, cross-play is a must to keep games alive, and retain people together rather than segregating them on their platforms of choice. Of course, there are complications in this, especially in the realm of shooters where PC players will undoubtedly have a leg up with a mouse and keyboard. But in the case of games like Minecraft, Rocket League, and even Fortnite Battle Royale, cross-play across all consoles—not grouped between two or so platforms—should be the norm.

With all the hell going on in America right now, it's honestly a struggle to care about video game related things like cross-play. But for other folks, in this trying time games are a cathartic outlet. Whether people want to squad up in Fortnite Battle Royale or survive the unknown of Minecraft together alongside friends, the fact is, people should have that option by default. If they're parents on the Big Boy console of the PS4 while their kid lounges about the living room with a handheld Switch, or two friends separated by states and consoles coming together for an evening of building shit in video games, cross-play should always be an option.

But if Sony can get credit for anything, it's being consistent in being anti-cross-play between other consoles. Sony has two moves it can make now: cave and bring cross-play across more games on its platform, or drop the equivalent of a Degrassi: The Next Generation reunion and implement its own backwards compatibility system or something to make people forget about the drama and be happy again. But if anyone can convince Sony to assuage its misguided worries, it's two competing gaming consoles joining forces to brag about its own cross-play in a faux-diss track. Now it's time to wait to see if its melody is enough to catch Sony's ear.

Edit: We've changed some language to clarify the PS4 and PC cross-play functionality across games other than just Final Fantasy XIV, better highlighting the reluctance for cross-console-play.

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Comments 12

  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #1 Funny_Colour_Blue 2 months ago
    Xbox is Luigi! NUMBA ONE! HO-HO!

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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #2 VotesForCows 2 months ago
    Yeah I'm finding it a bit hard to care about this too. It helps that I played Fortnite and found it pretty dull...

    Seriously though, I can completely understand why any platform holder would be against cross play - however marginally, it potentially lessens the argument to buy your system in particular. But its a bad look for Sony.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #3 link6616 2 months ago
    ... We all know sony supports PC/PS4 cross play in more than just FFXIV.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_video_games_that_support_cross-platform_play

    SFV and Rocket League for starters. And it was a big deal with Rocket League.

    For something more obscure, Phantasy Star Online 2,which got a streaming version for switch earlier this year even.

    Even fortnight on PS4 lets you cross play with PC and mobile, just not switch and XBO. (https://www.polygon.com/2018/3/23/17146848/cross-platform-crossplay-ps4-xbox-pc-switch-ios-mobile-enable-friends-compatible-matchmaking under What platforms are compatible? )

    Does sony have an issue with cross play between consoles? Sure, and the core thesis of this piece stands when we ignore the PC/mobile cross play. But given the starting and ending basically being "Except for FFXIV which is cross play on PC and PS4" just rings wrong, I'd probably not even bother whining if that hadn't been said. Sony deserves the bad rap they are getting for not letting cross console play, but they've been doing cross PC play since the PS2.
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  • Avatar for catymcc #4 catymcc 2 months ago
    @link6616 Totally fair. The Rocket League one is a bit muddled and still not perfect, because you can't group up cross-platform, but in rando matches you can play with other PC. (At least, as far as I know?) Gonna do some slight edits to this to clear it up tho. Cheers.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #5 link6616 2 months ago
    @catymcc Thanks! Appreciate that.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #6 Fourfoldroot 2 months ago
    Sony have nothing to lose? Are you serious? Presumably you mean other than one of the major incentives for people to keep buying PS4s?
    As well as all the online payment cuts (about 3% of everything bought).
    And no, getting a cut in the other direction will not offset that much at all.
    US Gamer are usually infinitely better than Eurogamer at serious, thoughtful articles, don't lose that guys.Edited June 2018 by Fourfoldroot
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  • Avatar for docexe #7 docexe 2 months ago
    From the point of view of the customer, crossplay between the three major consoles is a fantastic thing. It allows for a larger player base for online multiplayer and if your friends or family have a different console, you still can play together.

    From the point of view of the platform holder, however, it’s essentially giving away a competitive advantage. After all, one of the most common arguments I remember hearing at the beginning of this generation about why some people went with Xbox instead of PlayStation or visceversa was “because all my friends chose it and I want to play online with them”.

    In that sense, I can understand why Sony is so reluctant to allow crossplay with the other console manufacturers. And let’s be completely honest: Nintendo and Microsoft are currently “champions” of crossplay only because they have been in a weakened position during the current generation. Promoting crossplay is advantageous to them given their relatively smaller install bases, but if the Wii U or the Xbox One had been more successful in the market, you can definitely bet neither one of them would be so willing to break the proverbial wall of their closed gardens.

    That being said, while I can understand (if not celebrate) Sony’s reluctance to allow crossplay, their decision to lock third party accounts on Fornite to PSN (which let’s remember, it’s not quite the same thing as allowing crossplay) seems unreasonable. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if it was a technical issue or network security issue, but that tweet from Smedley (which we have to assume is entirely true) paints them as really overzealous.

    I could understand, say, putting some kind of check in place so while playing Fortnite on PS4, people could only use V-bucks (the Fortnite virtual currency) that were directly bought on the PSN store. But locking the account completely to your platform because you can’t stand someone using a costume that was bought somewhere else seems excessive, not to mention really greedy and petty.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #8 Fourfoldroot 2 months ago
    @docexe
    Agree with you in everything except your assumption the Epic account lock issue is a Sony problem. They would stipulate no cross play of course but, seemingly, Epic have no way to partician, its a simply lock out for their account management system. Of course Sony aren't going to prevent people who buy things on other platforms using them on other platforms, that would be ridiculous and morally indefensible, perhaps even legally indefensible.
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  • Avatar for docexe #9 docexe 2 months ago
    @Fourfoldroot I’m not an expert on the matter, but admittedly, from a technical perspective it might not be possible to implement such a partition in the virtual currency (or there might be methods to do it, but they could probably be too costly to implement or had other kind of pitfalls).

    Even then, I don’t think it’s really OK to excuse Sony of any responsibility on this issue. Ultimately, Epic has to comply with whatever terms Sony stipulates to them in their contract or licensing agreements. In that sense, the decision for the account lockdown is ultimately mandated by Sony, no one else.
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  • Avatar for Fourfoldroot #10 Fourfoldroot 2 months ago
    @docexe

    The issue is Epic want everything controlled cross platform on their accounts. If they can't do that on PS4, due to the long held and not at all surprising console crossplay lock down, then they shouldn't have brought it to PS4. But then, that would leave a lot of money on the table - enough to get them to update their account system?
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  • Avatar for moochan #11 moochan 2 months ago
    Wonder how this is going to go. Sony might shrug and ride the wave hoping it settles down. They are in the best spot right with not only western games but Japanese games. They see Nintendo as Vita 2.0 which most likely doesn't phase them as much of a competitor. But with now Nintendo and Microsoft working together to pull the rug from under Sony it actually work. Not saying anything would have been the Nintendo way but shocking it's not right now which is putting a giant spotlight on Sony which is something they really didn't want.
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  • Avatar for swamped #12 swamped 2 months ago
    Every major player in this industry is guilty of anti-consumer practices but Sony is by far the worst. You notice when big companies start to have a near monopoly in an area customer support structures disappear completely (see also Amazon, Google, Facebook). If you'd told me a year ago I'd be considering jumping ship to Xbox One, I would have laughed in your face. But then I got locked out of my Sony account for weeks because a chat support agent falsely accused me of harassment and there was no path whatsoever for recourse. At least I can get a call back from Microsoft, even if it's only because they're desperate to catch up. So I'm not surprised to see customers aren't being considered in this either. Not caring won't lose them any money, so they don't invest in it.
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