We get it Sony. The PlayStation 4 is very popular and is bringing in a lot of money for your once struggling corporation. We understand that you still feel like you have something to prove after the PlayStation 3 that you’re back and the biggest name in games (though Nintendo has already made a case against that in a pretty substantial way). We understand all of that, but come on, you’re just being stubborn at this point. It wasn’t okay when you chose to stay out of all the Minecraft crossplay goodness that Microsoft was touting (even Nintendo got in on that action) but we were willing to let it go. Now we have Fortnite coming to mobile, trying to achieve the impossible by allowing crossplay across all platforms…except PS4 to Xbox.
This is just petty, Sony. Fortnite, arguably the biggest game in the world, will support crossplay on all platforms with PS4 excluding Xbox (so PC/mobile/PS4). Microsoft is getting a similar deal, though they are quick to point out that they’re open to playing nice with Sony despite their resistance. Many people remember a few months ago when Epic accidentally flipped the proverbial switch (maybe literally, I’m not privy to Epic’s penchant for switches) and had PlayStation and Xbox playing together for the first time. It was a major moment for a few reasons. One being that it finally happened, and two the fact that it seemed shockingly easy to do, to the point where it could be done by accident.
Psyonix has said in the past that they were ready to introduce crossplay to Rocket League and were just waiting for the okay from Sony and I have to imagine that the same could be said of Minecraft. So why doesn’t Sony just give in and give people what they’re asking for? Well, that might actually be a bit complicated. For one, you have to assume that the people who might be asking for this the most are those who own just one of the current consoles (or one of the “big 2” being PlayStation or Xbox). I imagine there is a decent number of people who own just an Xbox for any number of reasons (a few of my friends are unwilling to give up their massive achievement scores) that have plenty of friends who own the more popular PS4. It makes sense that they want crossplay on these games so they can continue to play with their friends without having to invest in a new console and another set of fees such as PS+.
I imagine there are a lot of people on the PlayStation side that also wants that, but I’m willing to believe that a lot of PS users are mostly quiet on this front. As someone who would benefit from being able to play with my Xbox friends, I’m not writing to Sony demanding them to make the change, (UNTIL NOW AND I DON’T EVEN PLAY FORTNITE!) but Sony probably just sees this as a lot of background noise that doesn’t impact their daily business. At the same time, a lot of Sony’s early success this generation came as a result of playing the “good guy.” They rode the waves of bad press surrounding the disastrous announcement of the Xbox One and emerged as the “hero for the players.” They’ve lost their way over time but can regain some of the “good guy” persona that Phil Spencer has played to perfection since taking over the Xbox division by finally playing nice with the competition.
Let’s be honest, at this point, Sony has “won the battle” with Xbox. They’ve built up a user base of 80+ million units that put them far out of reach for a struggling Xbox that doesn’t appear to be trying to stage a massive comeback. Sony has proven their point and is now just rubbing it in; it’s childish. If Sony believes in their studios and their exclusives lineup as they appear, then they should have nothing to fear in terms of pushing more units. Sony has a 2018 lineup the features a new God of War, an exclusive Spider-Man game, Yakuza 6, and could see Ghosts of Tsushima (not to mention other upcoming games like The Last of Us Part II, MediEvil, Days Gone, and a game from some guy named Hideo Kojima called Death Stranding). If the games are what truly matters, then it’s time to focus more on competing with Nintendo than with Microsoft. That starts with keeping existing fans happy. It doesn’t matter how many consoles you sell if players decide they would rather play somewhere else that offers more freedom. That means fewer game sales and fewer subscribers to PS+.
Or maybe that’s the issue. Maybe Sony is a little bit scared of the shiny new Xbox One X and is worried about its users jumping ship. It’s a bit of a long shot for the same reasons like having to start over on a new service, but this is the first time Sony hasn’t held the power advantage in this generation. The original PS4 released as the most powerful console ever and Sony built on this by making the PS4 Pro. Now that the One X is on the market, Sony can no longer say they’re the home to “the best version” of any games but their own. They could be feeling the burn from the apparent success the new Xbox has had given that their own PS4 Pro still seems to be struggling to find its way into homes. Maybe Sony is worried that prospective buyers will buy a One X instead of a Pro because the game will almost assuredly perform better on that console. Then again, given how common PSN outages have become compared to Xbox Live, Sony might be doing a fine enough job of pushing people away on their own regardless of the power of their console.
There are countless reasons why Sony could be against cross-play, but we’re reaching a critical juncture where they need to decide if this is the stand they want to make and be remembered for. This isn’t for every game, Sony. It’s three games, maybe a handful more by the end of the generation. This won’t be the end of PlayStation. This will be a move that despite how long it took and how anti-player it was, you’ll be able to spin into the next great “good guy Sony,” move. Microsoft doesn’t want to move in, they just want an extra set of keys so they can feed your cat when you’re away and maybe make sure you’re alright if they haven’t heard from you in a while. The longer you make this the line in the sand the more it’s going to hurt when the rest of the industry forces your hand and there is no longer any question that you were the bad guy all along.