Halfway through 2017, gamers have a new console from Nintendo to enjoy, a high-end option from Microsoft to look forward to, and increasing interest in VR titles. With these advances in hardware, it seems silly that Sony is pedaling backwards with its decision to keep PS4 gamers away from enjoying cross-platform titles.
Speaking to Eurogamer earlier this month, Jim Ryan, head of global sales and marketing for PlayStation, explained the company’s position:
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.
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.
Xbox chief Phil Spencer isn’t buying the argument. In an interview with Giant Bomb, he pointed out that Microsoft owns one of the most family-friendly games around, and noted:
The fact that somebody would kind of make an assertion that somehow we’re not keeping Minecraft players safe, I found — not only from a Microsoft perspective, but from a game industry perspective — like, I don’t know why that has to become the dialogue. Like, that doesn’t seem healthy for anyone.
It’s odd to see Sony avoiding participating in an important phenomenon in the future of multiplayer gaming. Heck, even Nintendo’s getting in on the action: earlier this month, American studio Psyonix announced that it’s bringing its beloved soccer-but-with-cars game, Rocket League, to the Switch this holiday season, with cross-platform support in tow.
The title works between PC and Xbox One, and between PC and PS4 – it’s just that the consoles currently can’t talk to each other, because Sony won’t allow it. According to Psyonix, if Sony gave the go-ahead, it could have Rocket League running across platforms in “less than an hour.”
Psyonix’s Jeremy Dunham told Engadget that while Microsoft and Nintendo were quick to work with Psyonix to support cross-platform play, Sony has been stalling the conversation.
Of course, it almost certainly has to do with money: Sony is hammering Microsoft in sales, with a global install base of 60 million PS4s as of June vs. 26 million Xbox Ones that were last reported in January. As the market leader, it may not want to risk losing out on any customers buying a PS4 so they can remain in the PlayStation universe.
But it’s hard to be sure that that’s just how things will go. Last October, the Xbox One outsold the PS4 for the third month in a row in the US. Sony probably knows something we don’t about the future of console sales. The trouble is, that doesn’t help players.
As Dunham explained, granting gamers access to each other across networks would translate into faster matchmaking, better matches and access to better opponents, and therefore, more time spent on consoles and more chances to sell them things like DLC and cosmetic items.
Instead of fighting to stay exclusive, Sony would do well to explore ways in which it can capitalize on the opportunities that cross-platform gaming will present – increased longevity for multiplayer titles, bigger audiences for niche games, and more word-of-mouth promotion of games between owners of various consoles.