Microsoft Says Sony Is Holding Back Fortnite Cross-Play

Fortnite Battle Royale is the latest video game to have cross-platform play among some devices but just can't link PlayStation and Xbox players. Funny how that keeps happening.

Photo: Christian Petersen (Getty Images)

Last week we learned that Fornite Battle Royale would be coming to mobile with cross-play between PS4, PC, Android and iOS. Then, over the weekend in a blog post, Epic Games announced that Xbox One would have cross-play as well - with PC, Android and iOS. Not PS4. Afterwards, someone tweeted at Xbox boss Phil Spencer, telling him how much the community wants to see Xbox One and PS4 owners be able to play the game online together. "Me 2," Spencer replied. Even Fortnite creators, Epic Studios, chimed in. "We 3!"

"Microsoft has long been a leading voice in encouraging the adoption of cross-platform play and the potential of connecting players across PC, mobile and all consoles," a Microsoft representative said in an email to Kotaku today, when asked to elaborate. "We've worked closely with Nintendo to allow cross-network play between Xbox One and Switch and our offer to do the same with PlayStation players still holds. For any other questions regarding Fortnite cross-network play between Xbox and PlayStation, please reach out to Epic or Sony directly." Sony and Epic did not respond to a request for comment.

We've been here beforee. In early 2016 Microsoft announced support for cross-platform play between Windows 10 and Xbox One, paving the way for Rocket League players across both platforms to be able to play together, something already possible between PS4 and Steam users. The company then went further, extending an "open invitation for other networks to participate", that is, Sony. In a statement to Gamespot, the latter dodged the issue. "PlayStation has been supporting cross-platform play between PC on several software titles starting with Final Fantasy 11 on PS2 and PC back in 2002," said Sony. "We would be happy to have the conversation with any publishers or developers who are interested in cross platform play."

The issue came back up later that year when the head of Psyonix, the studio behind Rocket League, told IGN that everything was in place to make the game cross-play between PS4 and Xbox One. All the studio needed was permission from both of the companies involved. CD Projekt RED, the studio behind The Witcher series and its current multiplayer card game spinoff Gwent, said something similar. "Microsoft already confirmed Gwent's cross-play feature not only between Xbox One and PC, but also other consoles if they allow it, CEO Marcin Iwiński told IGN. "All we need is a green light from Sony." Currently, Rocket League is cross-play between Xbox One and Switch but not PS4. Gwent players on Xbox One and PS4 are also walled off from one another.

Then in 2017 at E3 Microsoft announced that Minecraft, would eventually be cross-play between Xbox One, PC, Switch and mobile, but again, not PS4. When asked about its conspicuous absence by Eurogamer, then head of PlayStation global sales and marketing, Jim Ryan, said Sony was doing it for the children. "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," said Ryan. "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." Currently, Minecraft is playable between Xbox One, PC, mobile and VR, with Switch integration still in the works. "I don't mean that to be snippy," Spencer said last June. "We've shown our intent on what we want to go do. And I'd love for Minecraft players to get to play Minecraft." Nearly a year later, neither company has managed to reach an agreement.

Now we have Fortnite Battle Royale, far and away one of the most popular games in recent memory on its way to mobile and, who knows, maybe eventually the Switch. Lo and behold, the same dance has begun all over again. Everything is in place to allow people on Xbox One and PS4 to start playing together right now. How do I know this? Last year, Epic Studios accidentally did just that. For a few hours in September, cross-play between the two platforms became a reality. "We had a configuration issue and it has now been corrected," Epic told Kotaku in an email at the time. Right on cue, Spencer took to Twitter. "I would have liked to see them leave it on," he said.

As a company, this was not always Microsoft's position. In 2011, Trion global brand director Alex Rodberg told Kotaku its upcoming shooter, Defiance, wouldn't be cross-play because "Microsoft won't let Sony players play against them". Naturally, Kotaku reached out to Microsoft to confirm this was the case. "We have a high level of expectation for our game developers to ensure that all Live experiences remain top notch," a spokesperson for the company said. "Because we can't guarantee this level of quality, or control the player experience on other consoles or gaming networks, we currently do not open our network to games that allow this cross-over capability." Sound familiar?

Now, in 2018, the tables have turned. PS4s are outselling Xbox Ones and Sony remains silent on that prospect, although its partnership with Epic allowing cross-play between PS4, PC and mobile, but not Xbox One, would seem to speak for itself. If ever there was the perfect opportunity to announce the digital wall between the two platforms would be coming down, or at least get a few doors, the announcement of Fortnite Battle Royale coming to phones was it. Alas, the wall remains.


    Surely this will start to hurt sony at some point.

      nope, as it never hurt Mircosoft last generation whey they were the one on top

        How many cross play titles where there last generation? If all the consoles are for it and are currently doing it, with actual titles people love to play.

        Its bound to have some negative stuff happen.

          If it this was pre-release and the consoles were launching this year, then yes, I'd agree that there would be a negative effect for Sony here. But they already have the market. Any negative effects would be close to negligible at this point for them.

          There were a fair few titles where Sony talked about wanting to push cross platform and Microsoft being the problem last gen. This generation however is done, Sony literally just needs to keep putting out exclusives that either look amazing or experimental (which is sort of their strong point, they do "different" titles a lot better than the other platforms) and the Xbox One X will mean very little unless both Sony and Microsoft decide to push this gen out further than expected.

          Rather, it would be nice if some negative stuff happened. Natural justice is a myth. Good things happen to bad people, and bad behaviour is frequently rewarde by the market.

        It didn't hurt Microsoft in the short term. But if they had opened the door to cross play on the X360, it would be a lot more difficult for Sony to block it this time around.

        It is similarly short sighted by Sony: there's no guarantee that they will remain king of the hill going forward.

          Maybe it'll hurt them eventually when people realise it's better to just be on PC, play with everyone, not have monthly fees to play online and cheaper games generally.

          Its also just more flexible too. If want to play in bed, stream Witcher 3 to your phone or tablet. Want to play on TV stream Final Fantasy to it and sit on the sofa.

          There's even a much bigger library of PC only games too boot.

          Sorry, this turned into a bit of a PC master race rant. But yeh, fuck Sony.

      Not till Microsoft doubles or triples xbone unit sales it won't

      Sony has everything to lose and nothing to gain in this case. They're the market leader and in most cases they have the largest or second largest playerbase for multiplayer. If they make it easier for people on other systems to play with their users, then what incentive is there for those people to buy Sony's platform? If it was all cross-platform, everyone would go to whichever system they liked the most, rather than whichever system the bulk of their friends are playing on. Sony's banking on the idea that since they have the largest slice of the pie, in most cases a new player is going to have more friends on their platform than on their competitor's and go there.

      Yes, it really only matters with AAA games, but they can't just single those out. So to prevent this happening with the Maddens and FIFAs and Destinys on the platform, they have a blanket policy that prevents it for everyone.

    Microsoft has long been a leading voice in encouraging the adoption of cross-platform play

    Yeah, also had a longer history of standing against it
    Not gonna hate on Sony for doing what MS never had a problem doing.

      That was years ago, and last console generation, and under different management.
      Things have changed, seems pretty petty to use the "well you would't do it back in...." excuse

        Business is business, regardless of the generation. Sony would be fools to capitulate. They are on top, no reason to concede any market share.

          [replied to wrong user]

          Last edited 13/03/18 1:13 pm

          Well actually, steam is on top - any they don't have any issue with it.

            Steam don't make hardware, nor do they have a direct competitor

              Hardware - Steam link, Steam controller, Steam box PC's, Vive VR etc.

              Competitors - Origin, uPlay, GOG, Microsoft store, BattleNet etc - and that's only including the ones with launchers.

            Console and PC markets are separate markets for almost all metrics.

            Sony are the console market leader. They don't have issues with cross-play because they aren't shipping hardware that exclusively accesses Steam. False equivalency.

            You do know, you cannot cross play games between GoG and Steam (has the most shared titles compare to others), while Origin, Microsoft Store, Battle Net sells different games that does not cross play?

            Maybe when you can play Overwatch on Steam and Origin and crossplay your statement will make sense. And no adding shortcut of to steam does not count.

            Last edited 13/03/18 5:34 pm

              Blizzard are the developers of overwatch and have always insisted on their own store/platform. You don't need a special hardware device to play overwatch on PC, just their launcher and it's their decision to disallow crossplay between platforms to keep competitiveness balanced.

              While in Fortnite's case, Epic themselves want crossplay between different devices and have already demonstrated it working perfectly and Sony is refusing to allow it. It's a different situation.

              This shouldn't be Sony's decision but rather left to the developers. If the developer decided it's ok it shouldn't be blocked by the platform.
              It's also worse that Sony is being selective in their decision. As far as I know they allowed crossplay with PC on War Thunder, why block Fortnite?

              Well actually that's incorrect - it entirely depends on the game and how they have implemented their multi-player - there are a number of games on GoG that do cross-play with their steam counterparts. Same with origin and Microsoft store too.

          That is a terrible stance on business.. market share is only one commercial aspect.

            Agree, although in this instance, market share is undoubtedly the most important (perhaps only) consideration in Sony's decision here.

            Their resistance to opening up their services means those with friends on PS4 are SIGNIFICANTLY more inclined to get a PS4 themselves when faced with the choice. How is this conclusion a 'terrible stance'?

              A couple of my new work mates had PS4's asked me to get one, I said no. Im less inclined to get one. Now a switch hell yeah maybe. I dont have time to play all consoles but id love to take the switch on trips.

              I have a PS4; XBOX; Switch; PC... this strategy makes me less inclined to turn my PS4 on.

              Losing reputation is a real thing.

              Though i wonder, the percentage of people who still only pick one or the other. I "thought" the general gamer's age has increased significantly, and have more disposable income.. It is not uncommon to have people with more than one console.

        The only thing thats changed is who stands to benefit.
        Business is business and marketing is marketing.

          That's my takeaway from this. Every time its been an issue, its the smaller market share trying to put pressure on the bigger share. Which is nothing to do with giving a better product to the gamer, but giving a better dividend to the shareholder.

          Simple, common-sense business decisions, nothing more.

      Yeah, by "long", they mean "ever since we started having our arse handed to us by Sony". When the shoe was on the other foot with 360 v PS3, they did exactly the same.

        Goes back even further than that, back to the original Xbox. They justified it by claiming they didn't want the Xbox to rely on PC gamers to make it work, which didn't make sense given Microsoft's massive PC history. You'd think that they'd want to be tapping into that market to make even more money.

        Reality was that they had the bigger market share, and felt cross platform would open the door to Sony gaining ground. Now the positions are reversed, but many younger gamers wouldn't understand the near 20 year history of this issue.

          Original Xbox never really had the right games to offer it though. They didn't want to with Halo 2 because Mouse & Keyboard players would have stomped Controller players. What else was there that was on Xbox that could have benefited from cross-platform multiplayer?

      fanboy alert

        Nope, a fanboy would pretend any of this, from any platform, is for the gamers.
        Swipe at Sony intended.

      I'm happy to support whoever is *currently* not being a dick about it. :P.

      Fuckery is fuckery, regardless of who's doing it. I'm totally gonna hate on whoever's doing it, instead of writing blank cheques because 'the other guy was the asshole when he was on top'.

      (Not that it'll change anything. It's just that yours is a terrible reason not to criticize bad behaviour.)

        I'm curious why a simple business decision like not handing over your market position to a competitor is fuckery, and yet a targeted marketing ploy to elicit emotional responses from consumers is not.

        I am criticising bad behaviour, I'm refusing to hate on somebody simply because their main competitor is attempting to hand ball the results of their own bad decisions and practices.

          Just because anti-consumer behaviour is good business doesn't make it not fuckery. Quite the opposite: business decisions that disadvantage consumers are actually kind of the definition of fuckery.

          As to hate... anyone who engages in the fuckery deserves the hate. Think of it as government abuse of power. Who gives a fuck if the opposition did it when they were in power? Sure, chase them for it when you've got some time but what's more important and pressing is putting the screws to whoever's responsible for any abuse going on right now.

          It's not an either-or tribal thing. You can hate everyone who's done something to deserve it. But when someone's actively standing in the way of something good, they probably deserve more hate than someone who's trying to help it along (even if it's not entirely altruistic because they might make a buck out of it).

            While cross play is undoubtedly an advantage, currently the lack of doesn't stand up as a disadvantage, at least logically.
            (Or else MS would have already done this in court)

            And correct me if I'm misunderstanding but your saying that one company not being altruistic is bad and another is good?
            Also, and correct me again if I'm off base, you admit MS isn't being altruistic and know that their current situation is the sum total of their own actions, but we should be hating on Sony for that?

            Frankly I still find MS and its emotionally charged manipulation of consumers and media under the guise of, "the right thing to do", to be the bigger fuckery here.

              It's really, really, super simple:

              Cross-play is good for consumers and developers, and is possible. The only reason it isn't being done is because one of the platform-holders involved feels like it would cost them an advantage. That's bad.

              Sony is standing in the way of cross-play. That's bad. Microsoft WAS in the way, but they're not right now. They deserve some side-eye for having been in the way previously and changing their tune only because it suits them, but - and this is the super simple and super important part - that's not going to get them out of the way, because they are already out of the way and thus irrelevant to any efforts being made to attain cross-play.

              Focus is important, and the pressure of that focus should be squarely on who is currently in the way, to get them to move out of the way. Anyone else doing the right thing for the wrong reasons doesn't change the fact that it is still the right thing to do. It's more insidious, but it's not less 'right' than currently, actively standing in the way.

              When everyone is out of the way, then, sure, we can argue over who was the bigger asshole, but right now, we just want everyone out of the way... So that's who needs pressure.

                Mate I really do get what your saying, but simplifying it down to just the false emotional narrative isn't doing the argument any favours.
                As evidenced here and elsewhere, most people aren't taking the cool aid any more as it becomes increasingly apparent that MS is only deflecting blame for their situation and using others to try further its own ends, to say otherwise is a gross misrepresentation of MS, Sony and reality.

                I'm happy to discuss this stuff and simplify it, but not if truths are simply dismissed or important factors omitted for rhetoric.
                The truth of it is easy.
                Cross play = added advantage to consumers, developers and an undeserved advantage to MS at a disadvantage to Sony.
                No cross play = no disadvantage to anybody at all because one doesn't exist for us and creators in the current environment and no actual anti consumer behaviour either.

                The idea Sony is blocking or standing in its way doesn't hold water either, they just aren't stepping up to hand over their their own hard earned position, nor should they.
                Sony is where they are because of the their decisions, MS is in the same boat and I won't pretend Sony is leading because it's hurting consumers and MS is behind because they want to help consumers, the metrics simply don't work that way.

                I'm happy not to play who is the bigger arsehole, I will just repeat that I'm not going to hate on someone for the errors of another, it's dishonest and misleading and I refuse to pressure anyone where no actual problem exists.

    I can see why Sony doesn't want to allow it at the moment. They have the larger market share and MS really want some of it. This would eliminate a large part of the decision making process for people still looking to buy a console. I know people who opt for the console their friends buy. I have a mate who was an avid 360 fan but owns a PS4 Pro now simply cause "His friends play PS4". That's a massive selling point. Take that away, and he would have bought an XBO.

      Spent my earlier years working at EB Games. So often, people would come in asking 'I'm looking at getting a Playstation or Xbox, which should I get?'
      First response from myself was ALWAYS 'What do your friends have?'

      Ten minutes later, they would walk out with the same console as their mates. This is SUCH an important decision-making factor, and Sony know this. They are very sensible.

        This. It's not about the players or the feasibility of game balance. It's all about business. It would be foolish of Sony to allow cross-play for an increasingly popular game like Fortnite.

          though in a game like fortnite, where it is Cross play across all platforms except Sony vs MS.. it comes across as Petty..

    The only thing that has changed is which business is selling more consoles.

    When Sony was selling less than Microsoft, Sony was pushing for crossplay and Microsoft was resisting.
    Now Microsoft has sold less consoles than Sony, now Microsoft are pushing for crossplay and Sony are resisting.

    It does not benefit the leading console to allow crossplay with the trailing console as it provides the trailing console a larger community to play with. The community playerbase is one of the most important things you should consider when picking Sony or Microsoft consoles.

    Why is crossplay being supported with Nintendo? Simple - Nintendo are not being viewed as their direct competitor.

    In sum, the player loses.

    Cross-play is good for gamers, and right now Sony is blocking that, so that's where pressure should be directed. If Microsoft starts blocking it in future again for whatever reason, we can put pressure on them too.

    Arguing "but but but they did it too" is well and good, but it does nothing to actually improve the situation, it's just shuffling blame and feeding into silly notions that tit-for-tat is okay.

      Thats just the state of the world unfortunately.

      Personally given the state of PSN and how flaky it is... this isnt the worst move.
      They need to fix the up time and quality to make it worth while.

      Probs why Sony is backing down

      Why do you think Sony cares for gamers? Sony only cares about Sony, same as Microsoft only cared for Microsoft back in the day. All the words over this, both now and the original time, are all from the minority putting social pressure on the dominant group.

      So in the end, its nothing more than good business to them to hold out. If that burns them, that might change, but I doubt it.

      You're seeing it from the position of the 'gamer', which is totally fair.

      Stand in Sony's shoes for a moment and realise that they need to do everything in their power to ensure the best possible success for their hardware. It's not about placing blame on any one company as much as it is simply understanding sensible business decisions.

      Sometimes, tit-for-tat is okay.

        I don't deny they may be acting in their best interests, so are the companies that add loot crates to their games. What matters is I'm not Sony and neither is anyone else here; it makes no sense for me or anyone here to come to Sony's defence ahead of our own best interests as consumers. We're all players, this situation is detrimental to us as players, and that's what should be the driving force here.

          I totally understand that, and I fundamentally agree with you, but I would never be so naive (I honestly don't mean to offend in saying that) to push a company towards a bad business decision. Not really fair for the market to push an optional decision to a market-leading company that would negatively impact them, regardless of the one-sided convenience of the action taken for the consumer.

            I don't think lock-in has nearly as much effect on consumer numbers as some folks here believe, but I obviously can't support that with evidence. I don't consider it to be a bad business decision, the same way not using DRM wasn't a bad business decision for CDPR. Positive consumer focus generates loyalty because people like being treated well, moreso.

              This is true. I have all the freaking consoles.. My biggest problem right now is that my Friends all have different consoles. i would like to play with all of them at least with games that makes sense.. Fortnite being cross platform with all except PS4 and Xbox makes it incredibly petty and brings this issue to light.

              If it is on a game where Sony has significant player base and monopoly, then i understand.

      Spot on.

      Doesn't matter who did what in the past.

        But it does matter. Not for the tit-for-tat aspects, but for the reasons why. If you look at why it happened back then, its the same as not, and quite simply, its a business decision.

        Do not forget for one moment that these are large multi-national corporations that really only care about making a profit. Every major gaming company has done it at one time or another, whether its crossplay or brand exclusives, and its solely to try and make a bigger profit.

          What confuses me isn't that they're corporations looking after their own interests, but why players defend the action or deflect it. "Sony is just doing what Microsoft did" is a completely unhelpful observation, it's bad for us no matter who does it and instead of saying "they're just doing the same thing" we should be saying "this isn't cool regardless of who does it".

            I don't disagree, I'm just saying that its a business decision (and filling in the backstory for people that were unaware), not a tit for tat reaction. I think the best thing Microsoft can do about it is to push developers to adopt a cross platform basis going forward. Keep pushing what they're doing now, and support the companies doing crossplay rather than block it.

            If a developer only needs one server farm to cover two platforms, its an easier decision to leave PS4 out of the loop - picture the reaction if CoD did that... That forces Sony's hand, rather than let them hide behind their market position. Its what Microsoft should have done in the original Xbox era.

              They're two different aspects of the same issue though. I agree that's a good path for Microsoft to take, but it would also be more effective if it was supported by players pushing Sony to join in too, instead of defending their decision not to.

                To be fair I don't disagree.
                I'm not defending Sony, I just won't hate on them for it.
                (Which is what the point of all this is)

                At the end of the day, Microsoft pointing the finger at Sony and playing the good guy/bad guy angle is also just marketing.
                They simply didn't care enough about this stuff until they found themselves in the shallow end.

    i dunno i have always been primarily PS user, but i did have a xbox 360 and every game the live community was toxic, i dont find that with PS3 or PS4, so i can understand why they would be hesistant (both sides MS and Sony)

    end of the day there is a huge player base for each title on each platform, i dont see the NEED for cross play

      Ymmv, ive had the opposite experience. Anecdotal experiences are necessarily representative of the overall population.

    Break the Walls dowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwn!!!

    It's not going to happen since these are business vying for the top spot, are how they calculate that is in their player base. It makes no sense what so ever to just give access to those players, PlayStation is in a good spot it has some fantastic games coming out and it is giving players what they want. Microsoft on the other hand is too busy marketing multi-platform games as "exclusive" and showcasing cars that are in their games. How about a little less showboating and some more substance.

    Sony are the Apple of video game consoles by keeping their player base locked behind their garden walls.

      All consoles keep their player base behind a wall, it's what a console naturally does. You can't buy a switch game and play it on your ps4, can you?

        I can play rocket league on the switch and play with XB1 and PC players online.

    So this is never gonna happen until at least next Gen and that's IF the consoles sell about equally. ...sheesh small odds

    It's all "He said/She said" to me. They can keep all that blame game nonsense to themselves, let me know when you actually have some good news about cross-play Microsoft & Sony. Otherwise I don't want to hear nothing about it.

      Best thing Microsoft can do about it is to just shut up and keep pushing crossplay between PC and Xbox. Put pressure on to developers to focus on that benefit, and slowly move away from Sony, and eventually Sony will have to come to the party.

      If the developers get benefits from only one set of servers, they'll start seeing PS4 as a costly outlier, and possibly walk away from them. Wont notice it for a while, but imagine the meetings at Sony if a game like COD decided not to develop for them, for cost efficiency...

    Just because people want something in earnest, doesn't mean it is something that has to happen.
    Sony and Microsoft are competitors, at times bitter competitors. Sony are striving to get as many people playing on their system for as long as possible. Understandable.
    A popular and fiscally strong Sony equals better games and infrastructure for their players. Same for Microsoft.
    They are a business first and foremost. The notion they are duty bound to engage in cross play is ridiculous.
    We don't live in a capitalist utopia where everyone works together, makes money and goes home happy. Businesses are in ongoing and direct competition where this kind of fanciful corporate co-ordination does not happen normally.
    Gamers have a rampant and misplaced sense of entitlement at times, especially evident in this scenario. People should be grateful for great and accessible games on multiple platforms.
    If you want to play on both, buy both systems and support both manufacturers.
    Don't expect the bean counters at Sony to stop doing their jobs and satiate misplaced wish fulfillment.

    I love how they just view Nintendo as a non competitor. They are just like "Eh, let the weird guy do it's thing".
    Then they point fingers at each other.
    Microsoft: It's their fault!
    Sony: They started it!
    *nintendo in the corner making weird arse games*

    These companies are all children. =P

      Ha! Pretty much.
      Nintendo is the weird kid, rolling around making bizarre noises on the side while Sony and MS fight.

      The hilarious thing is, every so often Nintendo springs up and starts curb stomping the crap outta everyone, leaving em dazzled and confused.

      Love em or hate em, they take risks that either blow up in their face or cause the big boys to sit up and notice.

        They get up, curb stomp them and then go back to rolling around making weird noises =P

        I love the weird games.

      No, Nintendo doesn't enter into this discussion because Nintendo does allow cross-platform multiplayer where it makes sense. Which is why you can play eg Rocket League or Minecraft on your Switch against people on PC and Xbox.

      The thing is, while the Switch is doing well, it's still a long way behind Sony, so they don't really lose anything by allowing it.

        Stop ruining my fun!

    Doesn't Sony have a much longer history of supporting cross-play than MS? The Final Fantasy MMO on PS2 had cross-play with PC.

    Hell, when this console generation started, I remember that Square Enix stated that the reason that they couldn't bring FFXIV:ARR to Xbox One was because Microsoft wouldn't play ball with allowing cross-play with PC or PS3/PS4.

    I suppose things are different when you're in second place.

    If cross play ever happens it would be awesome to play with friends that dont have an xbox/playstaion but crossplay allows you too connect with people and you can make new friends
    And i hope that one day sony will team up with microsoft to make the x Station boxpxpro

    Last edited 14/03/18 1:02 am

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