Good Luck Convincing Sony That PS4 Should Ever Crossplay With Xbox One – Forbes
Yesterday, something rather hilarious happened. Epic Games, creators of Fortnite, revealed that players across PS4 and Xbox One had been crossplaying with one another in what is likely the first time this has ever happened.
Players hoped this was some kind of breakthrough deal between the two consoles, but it turned out to be an accident. Fortnite flipped a switch (or changed a line of code, or what have you) and things were back to being in walled gardens once more. The event makes it clear just how easy cross-console play would be between Xbox and PlayStation, but it remains out of reach mainly because Sony simply will not agree to it. Xbox is fully on board, open to crossplay with PC and Nintendo whenever possible, and Phil Spencer even chimed in to say he wished Fortnite had let PS4 crossplay continue.
But Sony? Good luck trying to sway them.
It really is a seeming win-win for players to allow them to play against friends on other consoles. Everyone has run into the South Park-like situation of console tribalism at one point where X friend has the “wrong” console so it’s impossible to play with them online for certain games. Opening that up would theoretically build bridges across those gaps, and increase player pools for better matchmaking to boot. So what’s the issue, particularly for a self-proclaimed “players first” company like Sony?
Well, like all businesses, Sony is actually an “us first” company, and it’s not going to do anything that will not maximize its dominant market position, despite claims that it’s avoiding crossplay to avoid exposing children to “external influences” on other networks it’s not responsible for.
With a 2:1 sales lead over Microsoft, Sony wants gamers to be in the situation of feeling left out because they chose to go with Xbox One instead of the market-leading PS4. It wants “I need to play with my PS4 owning friends” to be a reason that people buy a PS4. This allows it to snowball its lead even further. More people buy PS4s because their friends all own PS4s. But if you start opening up crossplay on major titles, that’s no longer a motivating factor.
The other issue, as Erik Kain mentioned in this original piece on this, are Sony’s highest profile exclusivity deals. When you start introducing console-exclusive content, timed or otherwise, into the mix, crossplay becomes a mess. How do you matchmake in Destiny 2 when PS4 players have access to a sniper rifle or Crucible map that Xbox One players don’t have? Or how are things separated when new maps launch early for one console over the other?
Still, I have to believe it’s more the former reason than the latter, as that only applies to a few titles. Sony has built up this massive market position and their view is going to be that it only benefits its competition and hurts its standing for relatively little overall gain for players.
It’s an understandable, if not terribly defensible position. It would undoubtedly make things better for all players across most games, but Sony knows it’s won this generation and is more interested in continuing to crush its rivals than offering them a helping hand. I suppose that’s business, but it’s certain to annoy players.
My guess is we don’t see crossplay on PS4 and Xbox One for any game until someone, Microsoft or a publisher, offers Sony a big chunk of money to do so. And since it’s hard to imagine that happening, accidentally Fortnite crossplay may be all that we get for good long while.