The Sorry State Of PS4 Cross-Play

Minecraft, owned and operated by Microsoft, supports cross-play with Nintendo Switch.

Right now, if you download Minecraft on Switch, you can play with any of your friends who are on PC. You can play with any of your friends who are on Xbox, or even on their phones. There's just one glaring omission on this list, and it ain't the Ouya.

Sony, whose PlayStation 4 is the best-selling console of this generation, has spent the past few years embracing policies that now feel antiquated. Perhaps the most controversial of those policies is this: PS4 owners cannot play multiplayer games with players on the Xbox or Switch.

Earlier this month came a new wrinkle: Sony had even blocked Fortnite PS4 players from using their accounts on the Switch. A few PS4 games, like Final Fantasy XIV, allow users to play with PC players, but cross-play with other consoles is forbidden.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the market, Nintendo and Microsoft have become BFFs, allowing third-party games like Fortnite, Paladins, and Rocket League to support cross-platform play on both the Switch and the Xbox One. The two mega-publishers are even teaming up to make advertisements, jabbing at Sony in a fashion reminiscent of the PlayStation 4's iconic "used game instructional video" from 2013.

Five years ago, Sony had positioned the PS4 as the customer-friendly place to play games; now, Team PlayStation is the target of more forward-thinking companies.

For the past few years, as online games have become more ubiquitous, players have called for an end to the obsolete policy of walled play. If you're shooting aliens in Destiny on PlayStation and your friend is playing on Xbox, why should you be restricted to separate servers?

If you go on vacation with Fortnite Switch and want to team up with your friends who are at home on PS4, why wouldn't you be able to? In a video game climate where shared cultural experiences are becoming more and more important, the idea of siloed consoles feels like a relic — a reality that both Microsoft and Nintendo have recognised.

Mounting pressure appears to be affecting Sony at least a bit. At a conference in Spain today, PlayStation boss Shawn Layden gave Eurogamer a vague statement hinting at some sort of cross-play option in the future. "We're looking at a lot of the possibilities," he said.

"You can imagine that the circumstances around that affect a lot more than just one game. I'm confident we'll get to a solution which will be understood and accepted by our gaming community, while at the same time supporting our business."

This is a far more hopeful statement than the one Sony issued two weeks ago, telling media outlets that it was "always open to hearing what the PlayStation community is interested in to enhance their gaming experience" and that the company does "also offer Fortnite cross-play support with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices."

From what we've heard from game developers, enabling cross-play is not technically difficult. In fact, it's such a simple toggle that last year Epic Games briefly allowed PlayStation and Xbox players to team up in Fortnite before turning off the feature, telling press that it was a bug.

So why has Sony been so reluctant to let PS4 owners play with Xbox and Switch players? The company didn't respond to a request for comment yesterday, but a now-deleted tweet from former Sony Online Entertainment boss John Smedley may shed some light on this.

Smedley, who headed up online games like EverQuest, wrote on June 19 that "when I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money. They didn't like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a Playstation. simple as that. dumb reason, but there it is."

With nearly 80 million PS4s sold, Sony has dominated this generation of video game consoles, to the point where Microsoft no longer publicly reports how many Xbox Ones it has sold. (The answer: Far, far less.) It's fair to wonder: If Nintendo or Microsoft were in the same position, would they still be publishing pithy tweets about how cool it is to play together? Maybe not.

But they're not in that position; Sony is. And if the folks behind PlayStation stubbornly continue to stick to the past, even as we approach the next generation of consoles, they might not be on top for much longer.


Comments

    The market leader has always been the one that does not want cross platform play, Microsoft has a short memory.

    It sucks for players though, but I can play against non-PS4 players, just not XBOX or Switch.

    I guess it doesn't really affect Sony directly, and would only affect a small section of PS4 owners, so Sony probably isn't all that worried.
    It does however start to make them look like dicks as a company, and makes them look more like they aren't supporting gamers as much as MS and Nintendo, (when in fact, none of the companies support anything much other than what makes them money) and this might start to bite them enough to open it up somewhat. Then however, they may not want to lose face and have it look like MS and Nintendo are forcing their hand/ influencing their business decisions.

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out - are there any other big multiplayer titles coming out that are cross platform?

      The market leader has always been the one that does not want cross platform play, Microsoft has a short memory.

      This pops up every time. You think it would have sunk in by now that this has nothing to do with the players, and everything to do with business. On both sides.

      If the situations were reversed, it would be Microsoft stopping crossplay, content on having the market share to now care. As in the past.

      I really cant see it causing any drama myself, it only effects a handful of games. Even then, most of the complaints are people wanting to play just one game - Fortnite. Those chasing the leader can justify the expense, but the leader? Why would they?

      I think it is okay to congratulate/support a company when they make a customer friendly move like this, no matter what the motives are, so long as you don't let that support continue when they stop doing so.

      There's nothing inconsistent about criticising Microsoft during the X360 days for their position on this issue and congratulating them now. Similarly, you could congratulate Sony's previous stance (e.g. allowing Valve to enable cross play for Portal 2 on PS3) and criticise their current behaviour.

      Yeah this also pisses me off as to how uninformed people like you are...

      Shadowrun from 2007 on Xbox 360 and Windows worked perfectly fine for Xbox to PC...

      I can’t stand how anti consumer Sony has become, their stance towards crossplay and their fake artificial 4K console just further proves this.

      How many more massive titles supporting crossplay is it going to take for Sony to buckle on their pathetic stance?

    Exactly, why would the runaway market leader for this generation of consoles really worry about crossplay? They've already announced that this is the final phase of the PS4 so finding reasons to try and entice more people to the console seems pointless. They're better investing their time and efforts into the next model, which I'm sure they are. And I'm also sure that the PS5, when announced, will feature crossplay as a standard feature. But the PS4 doesn't need it, they already have the market. Nintendo and Microsoft on the other hand will be trying everything they can to boost their market share, considering their upcoming exclusive titles aren't looking as rosy as Sonys

    "understood and accepted" is a hell of a long way from welcomed.

    I can understand their (badly thought out and poor customer centric) position and accept that it isn't going to change. Still can't cross-play though.

    I'm extremely happy that Microsoft and Nintendo are pushing for this. They cannot back track now if either of them 'take the lead' next generation. Sony played this well imo. Yes they're treading a fine line of looking like dicks, but now they can enable cross-play the moment they feel sales aren't meeting their expectations. In the end, we all win as a gamers.

    How does this handle cheaters and hackers would be my question. Is it about as difficult as when your internet plays up and you call your provider for them to tell you its the phone company who you call for them to say its your internet provider?
    Nothing like a not-my-responsibility run around

    Epic should just turn cross play back on for Fortnite. What are Sony going to do, take Fortnite off the store? Stop letting the millions of people who play it on PS4 play it? Where Fortnite sits right now, they have the muscle to do this. Sony getting some money is still better than getting no money.

      What are Sony going to do, take Fortnite off the store?

      A: Sue them for lots and lots of that tasty Fortnite monies.

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