Another Developer Blames Sony For Blocking Cross-Play Between Consoles

Image: ARK Survival Evolved

In what is becoming an ongoing thorn in the side of PlayStation PR, the Ark: Survival Evolved developers have revealed that they have gotten cross-play working internally for the survival dinosaur sandbox - but Sony won't let them roll the feature out officially.

Cross-play has become one of the defining features of the latest console generation, extending from consoles to PC and even between the consoles themselves. Ever since Rocket League and Street Fighter V lead the push in bringing PS4 and PC users together, more and more games have been trying to merge players.

But as has increasingly become the case, PS4 users are being left out. Things came to a head during this year's E3, when Microsoft announced it was opening up Minecraft to cross-play across all platforms - which included the Nintendo Switch, and smartphones, but not the PS4. Rocket League, which helped illuminate the value of cross-play when it first launched, followed suit by allowing cross-play between PC, Xbox and the Switch all at once.

The initial response, put simply, wasn't good. Jim Ryan, head of global sales and marketing for Sony, told Eurogamer at the time that they had "a contract" with their online users and that they were concerned about "exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after".

Sony Has A Weak Excuse For Not Allowing Cross-Platform Play

Minecraft owners can soon play across Xbox One, Switch and PC. Rocket League owners will soon be able to play across Xbox One, Switch and PC. There's a console missing from that equation, and Sony's explanation why is not good.

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The backlash from that was pretty swift, drawing an exasperated response from Microsoft's Phil Spencer. But as Jim Ryan pointed out during the Eurogamer interview, Sony doesn't have a philosophical disagreement with cross-play - it's more of a commercial one.

And the fact of that matter came up over the weekend again, thanks to ARK lead programmer and designer Jeremy Stieglitz:

It's not the first time we've heard developers complain about this. In an interview with Polygon, Psyonix's VP of publishing Jeremy Dunham said they would happily unite all Rocket League platforms, but Sony wouldn't give them permission.

"From Psyonix, we would do whatever we would need to do to make it possible to be cross-network play with all the other platforms and PlayStation 4. They just need to tell us what that is," Dunham explained.

A key factor here is that both ARK and Rocket League run off Unreal Engine 4, which has made cross-platform support - and cross-platform development - a key feature. But it doesn't matter how integrated or simplified cross-play networking is on an engine level if the platform holders won't support it. Or, if we're being blunt, Sony.

From a ruthless perspective, it's understandable why: Sony is the market leader, and there's no commercial benefit to giving users a reason to play with PS4 users without having to invest in their own platform. And it's not like Sony isn't giving Microsoft a taste of its own medicine.

Remember Defiance, the shooter MMO that came with its own TV show? When Stephen first saw it in 2011, developers Trion had the game running with PS3 and Xbox 360 players in the same instance just fine - but it was a feature that was never released to the public, because Microsoft wouldn't allow it.

That's what market leaders do, after all. But 2017 is a different kettle of fish to 2011. Cross-play isn't the technical challenge it used to be. The only reason why Sony steadfastly refuses to allow cross-play between more games is because they believe they'll forfeit a commercial advantage in doing so. Even if it comes to the detriment of their own players, stuck in longer matchmaking queues.


Comments

    Thanks for 'protecting the children' Sony!

    I don't see a reason for Sony to enable crossplay. They have double of the player base compare to xbox and this cross play will only benefit xbox and not playstation.

      Yeah, seems like there's no commercial reason for them to do it. It's definitely in their financial interests to be selfish fuckheads.

      I'm guessing the only way there could be any commercial reason is if a bunch of players and devs make a big enough noise about what greedy fuckheads Sony are, to encourage everyone to jump ship when the Scorpio's out. Then I guess Sony can do a cost-benefit analysis to see whether they are better off continuing to be publicly-acknowledged greedy fuckheads, or if the PR impact is influencing new purchasing decisions in the gap between Scorpio and PS5.

        That is what happens when Xbox is on the losing side. If the role is reversed, I'm sure Xbox won't enable crossplay too. The whole reason Xbox did the crossplay with PC and everything was because their player base is too small and they want to expand, thus the UWA was made.

        Personally I do not want Sony to give in just because other consoles are not selling well and want to ride on their player base. Nintendo was declining and they climb back up with their new console and all the new games + IP. Even Sony is getting a lot of IP into their console but look at Xbox, still too busy milking franchise than making anything new. It's rather obvious what they are trying to get at, making developers making a fuss about Sony not enabling cross platform play.

        Not to mention, Sony does support cross platform play. Look at FF14. Enable cross platform play just to make Xbox players happy? Why would they?

        It is up to Microsoft is they want to sign a deal with Sony to enable that feature, dev request means nothing as this is purely for the benefit of Xbox.

        Last edited 21/08/17 11:17 am

          Not really. Sony's current profit-leader in the current gen is its long list of platform exclusives. However, that list is growing shorter and shorter over the years. As a result, players who invested in the PS4 this time around may be less inclined to do so in the next gen, especially as the games released move more and more towards online play with friends over the single-player experience most PS4 games are known as being fairly strong for

          Can you explain why exactly you (as a player) want Sony to not support crossplay? In what way do you benefit from that?

            My question as well. I get why Sony doesn't want to do it, even though Microsoft did do it even when they were lead console but I'm curious why an end user doesn't want Sony to give in?

            Seems kind of fanboyish.

          I didn't say anything about dev requests to Sony, because - as you mentioned - they mean literally nothing. Where devs have the power to put pressure on is from publishing information about exactly who's responsible for the fuckhead behaviour.

          Yes, it's understandable, savvy, greedy fuckhead behaviour, but that doesn't make it any less greedy or fuckheaded. "Fuck all you guys, so I can make money," is NOT inherently noble or laudable. It's understandable, but it's not praise-worthy. Denying consumers something that benefits them IS fuckhead behaviour. So we're clear.

          Consumer sentiment can, has, and will continue to influence company policies when it starts affecting the equation of, "How much of a greedy fuckhead can we be before it damages our brand?" Microsoft's digital-activation backpedal in the face of Sony's smug, "This is how you trade games," slam is only a recent example, but there are plenty of others, such as Battlefront/Titanfall's, "campaigns are expensive so we won't bother, but we'll charge the same price as other games with expensive-to-develop campaigns and hope no-one ahh fuck why is our sales tail so short?! Fine, we'll make a campaign in the next one!"

          What consumers think does matter. Devs have the power to inform consumers so that they correctly blame the party directly responsible for denying them what the consumer wants - cross-platform. The more it gets said, the more consumers are going to learn who's responsible, and factor that information into their decisions, if it's important to them.

          I've never said this is something that Sony HAS to do out of morality. I'm not that naive. My argument was that if there is sufficient dev/consumer pressure, then hopefully (for the sake of consumers) that equation, that balance, will change such that the benefit of blocking cross-platform play will be outweighed by the damage to brand.

          Remember, the PS4 came out in 2013, and the xXboneXx is scheduled for late 2017, which is a decent time to upgrade. Given that the PS5 hasn't got a release date in sight, Sony's current dominance is far from guaranteed. (As much as I would like it to be, due to my significant investment in that platform's digital titles and shiny cheevos etc.)

        Microsoft did this back when they were the preferred console.

          And it was shit behaviour then too. It didn't magically become a good thing just because the company doing it changed.

            Don't remember saying it was a good thing.

              Not you specifically, but it feels like some others are thinking along party lines, so to speak. Your comment was just the most succint to reply to.

      They may have more players than the xbox but the PC player base of Ark will be like 90%.

        Not that it matters, PC Ark is very different to console Ark. There won't be cross over between the two.

    There's already enough assholes on the PS4 - i dont really want to add XB and Switch (and PC) assholes to the list

    Although it'd be the quickest way to get a lot of people to give up online play - being able to play with everyone...

      At least the switch assholes wouldnt be able to abuse you without hooking up a rube goldberg machine to their phone.

    Oh please, Micosoft blocked it for bloody years and nobody said boo.
    Now I'm supposed to hate on Sony because Microsoft changed their minds in the eleventh hour.

      There is one person complaining about lack of 360 support in this article about Portal 2's cross play:

      https://www.kotaku.com.au/2011/01/portals-creators-want-to-give-you-free-games/

      I suspect the reason you're seeing it more now than before is because it was a novelty back then that no one expected. Today there are multiple examples of it working well, so customers are less likely to accept less than truthful explanations about it being impossible.

    Ultimately crossplay with the Switch\Xbox\PC is going to leave the PS increasingly isolated over time.

      Yes, or it encourages people to buy the console their friends already have (PS4 has a massive market lead) and increas the install base even more. It's good business, albeit a dick move by Sony.

    They could enable it and still be the market leader with all the exclusive titles and studios they back. It'll happen eventually though.

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