Fortnite Is Bad But Sony's Refusal To Play Nice Is Worse

Earlier this week, Nintendo delighted Fortnite fans by announcing that the game, which might just be the most popular game being played right now, was coming to the Switch immediately. Even better, Switch players would be able to compete with PC and Xbox players, too - instant digital distribution and multiplayer open to all!

Nintendo's announcement felt like a dream come true after years of console makers refusing to play nice. But it isn't a dream, because Sony continues to flip the bird to its competitors and Fortnite players on the PS4 are being left out in the cold, unable to play with Xbox or Switch gamers.

Image: Fortnite

I'm not too upset about this, largely because I hate Fortnite, which feels like a sloppy combination of game types thrust into a cartoonish world that lacks any real style. Like, do I really want to play a battle royale game sanitised for tweens and then raked over the Minecraft coals? Hell no.

But goddamn I will fight for those annoying little twerps to play together and carry all the stupid loot they accrue on their account from one system to the next. As obnoxious as Fortnite is, Sony's steadfast refusal to play nice is worse.

I'm not the only one to think Sony's being obnoxious. Phil Spencer, Executive President of Gaming at Microsoft, mentioned the crossplay issue this week at E3.

Framing it as a slight against the precious children, Spencer laid out a scenario to Giant Bomb, saying: "If you bought your son, your child, an Xbox, and I bought my child a PlayStation - and I'm just a parent, it's their birthday, whatever - and the kids want to go play Fortnite and they all of a sudden go home and can't play with each other."

He added, "It doesn't feel like it helps the consumers."

Of course it doesn't! Sony isn't trying to help the children, or the parents spending hundreds apiece on consoles. And Microsoft's framing of the issue as a slight against consumers isn't new. The company said something similar when it talked about courting Sony for crossplay back in August.

Reggie Fils-Aimé, CEO of Nintendo of America, was more polite about the Fortnite issue, telling Polygon that it was complicated (and that it also wasn't complicated at all):

In fairness, there are three different things going on. You have companies like mine that encourage cross-play and enable cross-play. You have a developer and content owner that wants cross-play and is encouraging cross-play, and then you have the other platform holders and what it is that they do. And when it comes to other platform holders, as much as you have influence on other platform holders, I don't. And that's a decision that each of them are making, and some are supporting cross-play and some are not.

Sony itself has been kind of dickish about its refusal to play nice. It finally gave BBC a statement on the matter yesterday. "We're always open to hearing what the PlayStation community is interested in to enhance their gaming experience." If that isn't a we hear you and do not care response then I'm not sure what is.

Sony went on to note that it has 80 million active users. That is different from the 73 million consoles Variety claimed were in the wild last month. Both numbers could be true - plenty of households have more than one user on a console, and both numbers are still more than double the consoles Microsoft has sold. Even Nintendo, for all its exceptional press, has only sold 17.7 million Switch consoles, according to Fast Company in April.

All those users Sony has means it really doesn't even need to give a damn what Microsoft or Nintendo thinks. It's the biggest kid in the playground by a wide margin. And as the statement to the BBC went on to note that Sony offers "Fortnite cross-play support with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices".

It might not play nice with it's direct competitors, but it has no problem playing nice with Apple, Windows, and Android — all of which have much, much, much larger userbases than Sony's PS4 console.

According to SuperData, Fortnite has over 44.5 million active players across the consoles and PC. It's the top game, revenue-wise, for consoles, and fifth for PC (data also courtesy of SuperData).

It is a beast of a game, and Sony's refusal to acknowledge that could bite it in the arse in the future. Kids probably won't stick their PS4s in a closet, but if they spitefully snap up a Switch or Xbox to play with their friends then that's money out of Sony's pocket.

Right now Sony is gambling that it's too big for one behemoth game to make a dent. That could be the case, but it, like the rest of Sony's talking points, is still garbage. It's 2018. The technology to let everyone play together regardless of system exists. So maybe let it happen? At least in time for likely better games, such as Battlefield.


Comments

    The other consoles are for gaming with your friends. Sony is all about gaming with Sony. trouble is, the exclusives are more likely to determine which console wins the next gen war than the fact that someones kid can't play with his schoolmate

      In theory, yes? To date, that has always been true. But there has never really been a cross-platform multiplayer hit like Fortnite before. Depending on how this pans out, it could make a dent. Especially since the Switch offers different functionality to the PS4 and Xbox (handheld), which makes justifying buying a 2nd console to play Fortnite much easier. Seriously, every cat and his dog is playing this game, and Nintendo stands to win out the most from this media shit storm.

    "I'm not too upset about this, largely because I hate Fortnite, which feels like a sloppy combination of game types thrust into a cartoonish world that lacks any real style. Like, do I really want to play a battle royale game sanitised for tweens and then raked over the Minecraft coals? Hell no."

    What is this, an opinion piece? Maybe you should put "BLOG" in big letters at the top of the screen on the home page so people know what they're getting into, perhaps.

    Sloppy? Fortnite is a lot of things but damn, sloppy is about the last thing I would associate with it. Epic has raised the bar for game support and community engagement significantly.

    I guess Fortnite has reached that point of popularity where it becomes cool to "hate" it but the journalism here is the only sloppy thing I can see.

    Last edited 17/06/18 9:59 am

      Alex doesn't like the game - and hey, that's totally fair - but it's not about Fortnite itself, but Sony's approach. Op-eds have been a part of journalism and reporting since the industry began.

        Yep. Any decent editor would have chopped that entire paragraph. It wouldn't be out of place in a Youtube comments section and detracts from the rest of the article, for me at least.

        I get that, but he shouldn't have put it as the first thing in the title, but you already know that :P

        Structure:
        "Irrelevant opinion, actual title"

        Better:
        "Actual title"

        ie. don't do clickbait on a reputable site like Kotaku :)

          She! Alex (Cranz) works for Gizmodo in the US. My local style is different, but I've noted all the feedback nonetheless.

            I wouldn't bother, its just the usual people comign out of the woodworks that can't recognise a small bit of jibbing when giving an article colour.

            In other news, Elderly man yells at clouds.

    I'd take Phil Spencer's criticism a lot more seriously if MS hadn't done exactly the same thing when they were dominating the market with the 360.

      Maybe, and it's true they did. However hanging onto something that happened ten years ago is redundant, as they've moved past that now. They're openly saying 'let's do this' rather than saying 'nah let's not'. When people are saying 'let's do this' and offering an open hand, do you be regressive and keep that shitshow going or do you say 'let's actually pave the way for a better future' and help make actual progress? Noones saying exclusives will dry up, they won't, but it will indeed help create a larger playerbase for games and, it'll also bring more people into playing online when they realise they don't have to buy another console and can just jump on with their buddies instead?

        It's not about the tit for tat, it's the criticism.
        What they saw as completely acceptable then is apparently unacceptable, evil and anti consumer now.

        As I said further down, I'm glad MS is changing and trying to improve its image and consumer interactions, but trying to destroy the image of their competitors with the other hand just shows they are playing dirty as usual.
        It's not enough to climb up on your own merits, you have to drag others down to make it easier.

          I get that, but we also have to observe that MS isn't a static entity. People have come and gone, as they have in Sony, and intent and purpose changes as do priorities. Sony will eventually change their stance on this, maybe MS will change back the other way, who knows, it all ebbs and flows. But cutting off our nose to spite our face, hanging onto the past in an effort to say 'hey you did this a decade ago so fuck you and let's not progress', is a fools errand and leaves us stuck in the past. The best way forward is to say 'We all made mistakes in the past, lets not make them now and progress for the better of everyone'.

          "It's not about the tit for tat, it's the criticism."

          Yeah, even though he carefully points out it's their decision to make, states why his companies decision was different, and actually never directly criticises them at all.

          Because Sony have never criticised anyone. Ever. Nintendo. MS. No one. They are golden gods.

          Phil actually speaks to this when the Giant Bomb crew call him on the very same thing. The interview is actually really interesting and worth a listen. You can hear it on the Giant Bombcast - day 2 E3 coverage. His response is roughly what Weresmurf said below.

            Yeah I saw his comment, Alex posted it below.
            Essentially he understands if no one believes him but had he been in charge back then he wouldn't have blocked it.

            Now before I comment, let me say I'm not saying this as reason to avoid cross play, I'm all for it and also I think Phil is one of the better decisions MS has made in recent years, I'm just commenting on his statement and why I find it hard to buy.

            Firstly, to say otherwise right now would completely undermine the media push, to claim he would've blocked it too would literally give weight to Sony, so of course he's gonna say that.
            Secondly, he couldve only proposed the idea, he would've needed full support from the board and considering the play would have lost them market position regardless, I'm gonna assume their decision would've remained unchanged.
            Thirdly, as much as I like the guy, he's still a business man (a good one at that) who knows how to play the game and I find it unlikely he wouldn't be unaware of the first two points.
            (Hence why he understands if nobody believes him, it's a cleverly worded statement no doubt)

      This 'he hit me first' bullshit has to stop, it has nothing to do with what's best for gamers and everything to do with platform partisanship. Deflecting and dismissing this shit is what the company doing it want you to do because it benefits them, but it does fuck all for us.

      Microsoft did it wrong last generation and they were blasted for it. Now they're doing it right and Sony is doing it wrong, but you want to keep punishing Microsoft instead. That communicates completely the wrong message on both counts - you're punishing a company for changing their policy to be what we want it to be, and not punishing a company for changing their policy to be what we don't. This is what fanboys do, surely we're better than that.

        Its not about continuing to punish MS, it's about not punishing the faux image of Sony that MS is propagating.
        Sony isn't being anti consumer, they just aren't being any more consumer friendly than they are now.

        I'm happy to put pressure on Sony to begin cross play, it would be a yes from me if they asked, I'm just not going to pull my hair out and tow the, Sony hates gamers, marketing angle that MS is spewing out.
        The idea that Sony is in their current position because they've been anti consumer is laughable and frankly insulting to gamers as this environment is literally a reflection of pro/anti consumerism in the first place.

          I don't agree. For one, 'Sony hates consumers' is a sentiment coming from us, the gamers, not from Microsoft. Spencer's statement is exactly right, it doesn't help consumers.

          The reality is this: Microsoft was being anti-consumer then, and Sony is being anti-consumer now. I understand the urge to defend things we like, but it absolutely must be on a case-by-case basis, not all-or-nothing. Sony is undoubtedly great in other respects, but they're dead wrong in this one.

          And just to non-edit clarify, I'm certainly not expecting you to hate Sony. I don't think an entire company should be judged by a single mistake and I apply that to Microsoft's past just as much to Sony's present. But I do think we should put aside brand loyalty and tribalism as gamers and be unified behind what's best for us as consumers.

          I don't think there's faux anything here.

          In 2018, this is Sonys stance. In 2018 this is Microsofts stance. The only faux thing is this bullshit policy that PS4 owners cant use their Epic accounts on Switch to play Fortnite on the go.

          To accuse MS or Nintendo of misrepresenting Sonys decision is some real bullshit when it is Sonys decision, that theyve reitereated and defended.

        I'm not talking about the policy as such, just the motivation behind the statement and the policy. Do I think we should be able to play cross platform between everything? Absolutely I do. But I also understand the commercial imperatives behind both sides of the issue.

        Without cross platform play, "what system does my friend have?" is a question that at least some people are going to ask when deciding. Right now we have PS4 outselling XB1 something like 2 to 1,which means that the answer to that question is statistically likely to be "PS4", which then pushes even more people towards PS4. Obviously in this case, it is to Microsoft's commercial advantage to get cross platform play happening, and to Sony's advantage to prevent it.

        And that's my issue with these kinds of statements coming from MS. It's not that I disagree with the principle that cross platform play is a good thing. I just disagree with this idea of the scales of closed online platforms falling away from Microsoft's eyes to let in the glorious light of pro-consumer policies. It's actually simply the case that right now, at this moment in time, what is financially beneficial to Microsoft just happens to coincide with what we as consumers would like. If they'd continued their dominance from the early 360 days (or even just been competitive, not dominant) then XBL would still be closed off today. If the positions get reversed when the next generation rolls around then we'll probably see Sony come knocking to set up cross platform play again, and MS might allow it, or they might slam the door in their face and close it down again.

        I guess what I'm getting at is that these statements from MS aren't the sounds of a sudden surge of benevolence towards the consumer. They're the sound of somebody getting thoroughly buttf*cked asking for lube.

          I think it's fine to be suspicious of Microsoft's motivations, but I mentioned below that at the end of the day it's still the right thing for us, even if it's for the wrong reasons. Sony's choice is more the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

          What I loathe is the fanboyism that makes rusted-on supporters out of people and creates a whole us-vs-them mentality in games and tech and everywhere else in life, whether it be sports teams or politics or Nvidia/AMD. It leads people to make bad decisions against their interests because 'their team' is doing it so they have to support 'their team'. While I'm not saying you do that specifically, the basic structure of the argument you made reads as 'don't look here at Sony, look over there at Microsoft instead', and I appreciate you probably didn't mean it in that way but it sets off one of those fanboy warnings in my head. I just really feel like we shouldn't be redirecting attention like that, because even unintentionally it communicates that we're letting Sony off the hook: a "they did it so I should be able to do it too" kind of thing.

          That aside, I don't think it's so unbelievable that Microsoft might have learned their lesson on this one. Phil Spencer seems genuine in his view that it's not consumer friendly in general, and as Alex's post below notes, Spencer wasn't in a position to make or change that decision in the X360 era, he was only given the position in 2014.

          I guess I just think that the company has had such an enormous philosophy change in other areas of its business, it's really not far-fetched to think they might have had the same here too.

            But you said it right there, Sony are besting Microsoft 2 to 1. I really doubt they think cross play will help their numbers that much. The console generation has been won by Sony easily. The fact is MS were dicks then, and Sony are being dicks now.

              What Sony thinks will help their numbers is irrelevant to us, we're not Sony. There are tons of consumer-unfriendly things companies can do that will help their numbers that fuck us over in the process, that are in their best interests but are absolutely not in ours.

              There's a fundamental tug-of-war between what companies want and what consumers want. Companies have vastly more resources and put a lot of effort into finding just how much they can take from consumers without losing them. When people say things like "well they're just doing what's in their best interests", they stop pulling for the consumer side and start pulling for the company side, giving them more of what they want and us less of what we want.

              Creative Assembly is a perfect example. Disrespect for their customers, putting out what amounts to reskins of the same game over and over for full price a pop. Riddled with game-breaking bugs, and promises regularly undelivered. The Norsca addon for TWW2, a preorder bonus, came out nine months after the game launched. They get away with all this because they're the only developer in the genre, and their fanbase stopped pulling the rope and settled for being treated like shit because they feel like they have no choice.

              People really need to stop thinking about what will help Sony, or Microsoft, or Creative Assembly, and start thinking about what will help gamers, or at the very least what's in their own best interests as a gamer. Otherwise we're the ones who lose out.

      Spencer did actually talk about that during the Giant Bomb interview, although I don't have the quote on hand or on memory (the full thing isn't transcribed anywhere). Basically, his answer was that he gets if people don't believe him now, but he wouldn't have supported that approach if he held the position he does now during the 360 era.

      Back in that time, PSN network was free to use and fairly unrestricted where as Xbox live was a paid service. I can see why MS said no back then. There were actual reasons. Now PSN is a paid service the playing field is level.

      In fairness, Phil wasn't the head of Xbox at that time. Xbox under Don Mattrick didn't allow cross play. Xbox under Phil Spencer does. Phil is much more pro-gamer then Don was. I don't think it is very useful at this point to discredit what Phil says because of decisions made by his predecessor.

    I'm all for cross play, but these emotionally driven articles never come off as genuine.

    It's great that Xbox is trying to change its image on the back of its own past business decisions, but it's dirty pool to throw blame at another company whose own decisions have put them on top.

      I agree in theory, because MS clearly are a similarly motivated piece-of-shit corporation to Sony. But in practice, as a consumer, I want unrestricted crossplay, so MS's motivations for throwing shade aren't as relevant as the fact that I agree with them.

        I'll take doing the right thing for the wrong reasons over doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons any day.

        Oh I'm not against cross play either, it would be cool.

        Just aren't going to hate on Sony because they technically haven't done anything wrong and I'm not buying the whole, for the kids, poor little underdog good guy MS angle, less so when it relies on creating an evil antagonist.

        Also expected this horse to pop up again after E3 when all anyone's talking about (outside of cross platform titles) is TLOU2 and other Sony titles.

          TLO2 aside, I thought the Sony lineup was a bit weak? Not because the games don't look cool, I mean, Spiderman and Shadows both look amazing. But they blew their load with surprise announcements last year, and they were left just showcasing the same games. It was fine, but a surprise or 2 is the cherry on the sundae with these conferences that people have come to expect. MS and Nintendo managed to bust out 1 or 2, where Sony was just kinda like 'here's the stuff, coolcoolcool'.

    @braaains exactly, MS tested cross platform play back on the 360 (shadowrun etc.) and because even mediocre pc gamers were dominating, they stopped it.

    Cross platform has been possible since the unreal engine started to get used on consoles, the only thing stopping it is legal rubbish by MS and Sony.

    The real issue isn't the crossplay. It's the preventing login on Switch/XBO even if you started the game on PC and only played the PS4 version once, or even just logged in once on PS4.

    It's the equivalent of using Netflix once on a device, then not being able to use that account ever again on any competing device.

    Crossplay is one thing, but finding a match on any single platform isn't an issue with so many active players. But tying your Epic account/login to one device. That's low.

      Yes. Out of everyone you get it the most. Thank you.

      It really bugs me that all these articles are conflating the two, to me the account lockout is the biggest issue.

    I was wondering why Epic was permanently locking accounts to PSN or !PSN, since it sounded like it would be sufficient to only lock a player to PlayStation-only games when they're playing on a PlayStation, and let them play against everyone else when they play on a non-Sony platform.

    There's two reasons I can think of for this:

    1. Epic wants to make the issue visible to customers so they will lobby Sony.

    2. Sony wants it so they can capture all the commissions on microtransaction revenue associated with the Epic account.

    I suspect the second option, since cross play effectively means the player can spend on one platform and enjoy the benefits on a second platform. At that point, Epic could make the platform holders compete on the commission they charge by setting the price to equalise the amount of money Epic receives from the sale.

    Just writing to say I hope to see more articles about this. I would love cross play and the only way I can think of to show Sony, on an individual level, that there is a good reason they should allow this is to put my money elsewhere. I think it helps players when media giants like yourself, IGN, Polygon and Gamespot get behind it. I'm always willing to read a writers perspective on the issue or any fresh information about the topic.

    Well now that Epic Games Fortnite has finally arrived on Nintendo Switch as a free to play download. I say to Sony that they are bunch of dickheads since they didn't announce who was the winner for the Playstation VR Galactic Giveaway and fuck that Shawn Layden from Sony.
    I hate Shawn Layden he is nothing but a dodgy bastard. How dare you flip the bird to it's PS4 competitors Sony. You guys are nothing but dodgy bastards.

    After playing alot of multiplayer action games i finally gave Fortnite a try after all the hype, my thoughts are a resounding "meh, nothing special"

    people follow hype i guess.

      Sure, that's probably it. Or, people have different tastes in games, maybe?

        na, its just an average game and your on the hype train.

          I don't play it, so I'd say you're a bit far off the mark.

    My assumption has always been that if cross-play was allowed, the question the consumer asks themselves when considering which console to buy changes from "Which console do my friends play on?" to "Which console is better and which console has better games?" This gen, the answer to the question is clearly PS4, so surely making cross-play a viable option, only stands to increase Sony's revenue?

    Am I wrong in this assumption??

    Not that this particular issue should even be a question of cross-play. The simple fact is, locking your Epic Games account to PSN after one login is just straight up anti-consumer.

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