Sony's Cross-Play Policy is What Happens When One Company Wins the Console War

Sony's Cross-Play Policy is What Happens When One Company Wins the Console War

STARTING SCREEN | Sony doesn't have to play fair, but it might suffer the consequences in the long-term.

E3 is all about the hustle and the bustle, plus there's usually a little dash of controversy to spice things up. The too-doo accompanying this year's E3 was once-removed from the show itself: When Nintendo revealed Fortnite is playable on the Switch, fans quickly discovered any account associated with the PlayStation 4 version of the game is automatically locked out of Switch play.

Sony's exclusionary actions went over like price hike on V-bucks. Players with Fortnite accounts on the PlayStation 4 can't transfer their levels or skins over to the Nintendo Switch version of the popular MMO shooter, which is a shame because Fortnite generally works well as a handheld experience. Sony never warned players that Fortnite accounts used on the PlayStation 4 won't work on the Switch, so fans are understandably miffed (there's no problem moving between the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One version of the game).

Sony's not playing nice, true—but given the PlayStation 4's install base, it doesn't have to play nice, and it knows it.

SONY: "This is a metaphor for us building a better online experience. Hah! Just kidding."

That's probably why Sony's not forthcoming with any answers or compromises that might ease the hurt, either. In fact, it's issued a non-statement that's so condescending, it reads like a form apology written in the style of those fill-in-the-adjective/noun/verb/adverb games you probably played with your friends as a kid.

"We're always open to hearing what the PlayStation community is interested in to enhance their gaming experience," the statement (issued to BBC late last week) begins. "With... more than 80 million monthly active users on PlayStation Network, we've built a huge community of gamers who can play together on Fortnite and all online titles. We also offer Fortnite cross-play support with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, expanding the opportunity for Fortnite fans on PS4 to play with even more gamers on other platforms.

"We have nothing further to add beyond this at this point," the statement concludes. In other words: Go suck an egg, Fortnite fans.

Sony's refusal to open the PlayStation 4 playground for all the children in the neighborhood isn't new. The issue swings back around whenever the Switch gets a popular online multiplayer game like Rocket League or Minecraft. Last year, PlayStation global sales and marketing head Jim Ryan told Eurogamer Sony operates a walled garden because it has to be "mindful" of young player bases for family games.

There's a PR storm comin'.

"We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe," Ryan said. "Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it's something we have to think about very carefully."

When Eurogamer pointed out Nintendo—a rigidly family-friendly company—allows cross-play on the Nintendo Switch, Ryan's response was basically "Eh."

Everybody has to take their own decisions," he said. "We'll do that."

If Sony didn't budge for Minecraft cross-play, there's no reason it'll see the light with Fortnite. It's all quite stupid, but it's typical behavior for whomever happens to be "winning" the console wars at a given moment. Once Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo claims the top spot for a generation, they clutch their cards close to their chest and glower at the competition. Yes, the install base for PSN Online is huge, and Sony would very much like to keep in that way. Letting the people who bought your console play willy-nilly on the Switch and the Xbox One isn't great for those numbers. It's telling Sony seems willing to sustain the PR damage it incurs by refusing to budge on the cross-play issue; keeping its player base reined in tight seems to be more important.

Sony's Battle Bus is real exclusive. Cool kids only!!

Maybe Sony's just hoping it won't be the only company to do something stupid with its online platform before the year's done. Nintendo Switch Online is a big question mark, and we didn't learn anything about it at E3 2018. Plus, it utilizes a clumsy app nobody likes. And it's all well and good for Microsoft to flash consumers its biggest smile while giving us great deals on new games and the best backwards compatibility in the industry, but we're arguably only receiving these perks because Microsoft's arrogance hobbled the Xbox One out of the starting gate.

Consumers have no problem toppling an industry king if it gets too smug and confident. It's happened again and again. Sony's already gone through the wringer once with the poor reception of the PlayStation 3. It'd do well to remember the lean times, because they're never more than a single console generation away.

I can't accurately predict the future, but I know this much: Nintendo's probably just fine with Sony diverting some of the heat fanned its way for failing to show much beyond Super Smash Bros Ultimate during its Nintendo Direct presentation. Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime even contributed a quote to the BBC article about the Fortnite lock-out.

"What competitors do is their decision to make," he said. "We believe being both developer-forward and fan-forward is in the best interest of the game."

Gracious, he has no idea what's gotten into those crazy Sony kids.

Looking Ahead to the Rest of the Week

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is over and done, but there's a bit more coverage from us coming for the rest of this week. Look forward to more previews, interviews, and stories yet to be published!

But there are new games coming this week, some you might know, but some you might not!

  • Musynx [June 21]: Looking for a rhythm game for your Nintendo Switch? This launch looks to bring the mobile release to all-new platforms, including Switch, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4. 90 songs, with more free additions planned after launch!
  • Mario Tennis Aces [June 22]: The next big Switch title is here. Mario Tennis Aces brings back many of your Mario Sports favorites like Waluigi, Luigi, and Peach, while adding newcomers like Chain Chomp, Diddy Kong, and Birdo. Play tennis against the CPU or your friends, or take a shot at Aces' new Adventure Mode campaign.
  • New Gundam Breaker [June 22]: This is a bit of a surprise. New Gundam Breaker will be out in North America this Friday. The title puts a number of your favorite Gundams together, letting you mix-and-match parts to build the best Gunpla warrior you can.

This Week's News and Notes

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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