Microsoft and Nintendo are certainly looking cozy together these days. The latter just released a trailer promoting the new crossplay available between the Xbox One and Switch — and it’s most notable for who’s not in it rather than who is.
The game which supports this new friendship is Minecraft. Here’s the trailer for this collaboration between two of gaming’s heavyweights:
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Notice anything there? Maybe just a touch of shade, thrown by red and green over the one color that isn’t there: blue.
Okay, so the trailer doesn’t mention Sony directly, but it’s not hard to see the meaning behind the “Better Together” tagline. If Microsoft and Nintendo are the two kids who’ve started politely toddling around together on the playground, Sony is the one sitting alone on the swings.
This divide is by no means restricted to Minecraft. Sony also reportedly refused to allow crossplay with Rocket League — an executive with developer Psyonix told Polygon there were no technical problems preventing it from happening, only a “political barrier.”
More recently, Sony has taken a scorching level of heat for blocking Fortnite crossplay between PS4 and Switch, forcing players who wanted to use both to start over in a game where progression is key. It was particularly egregious in this case because users who’d already used their Fortnite accounts on their PS4s will never be able to use them on the Switch — a situation they only found out about the hard way and which they were never warned about beforehand.
But why is that? Why has Sony so insistently shut itself off?
The Minecraft crossplay was first announced at last year’s E3 conference. That was around the time people started asking Sony executives why the PS4 wasn’t joining the movement. Eurogamer asked Jim Ryan, PlayStation’s head of sales and marketing, the question first.
Ryan refused to directly explain the business reasons behind the crossplay block, but he did have a somewhat tenable argument for why Sony was refusing crossplay for Minecraft in particular:
Minecraft – the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it’s all ages but it’s also very young. 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.
At least, it seems tenable until the interviewer points out it’s not much of a problem for Nintendo, which is famously child-friendly, and Ryan does the verbal equivalent of a shrug.
In the case of Fortnite, Sony’s response to the upset was even more flimsy:
We’re always open to hearing what the PlayStation community is interested in to enhance their gaming experience. With… more than 80 million monthly active users on PlayStation Network, we’ve built a huge community of gamers who can play together on Fortnite and all online titles. We also offer Fortnite cross-play support with PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices, expanding the opportunity for Fortnite fans on PS4 to play with even more gamers on other platforms.
In other words, “Take what we give you and be happy about it.”
John Smedley, manager of Amazon Game Studios and former president of Daybreak Games Company, which used to be a Sony subsidiary called Sony Online Entertainment, had another explanation. In a now-deleted tweet, he said:
btw 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.
To be fair to Sony, it’s not as if they’re the only holdouts in a long crossplay tradition. In fact, until relatively recently, cross-console gaming was out of the question. Your consoles were closed circles, end of story. That didn’t really change until this console generation.
Time will tell if Sony eventually — begrudgingly — accepts the inevitable. I suspect Fortnite might be the primary motivation, as players will be less inclined to buy something if they know they won’t be able to play with Switch friends, and a lot of people are playing Fortnite.
via The Verge