Why doesn’t Sony allow cross-play on the PlayStation 4? It’s a question that first cropped up a year ago, when it was announced that Minecraft would operate across the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, but not the PS4. The question has resurfaced once again with Fortnite. So why won’t the PS4 play nicely with other consoles? And what can be done to change it?
Why Doesn’t Sony Allow Cross-Play on PS4?
There’s an important distinction in this question: Sony does allow cross-play on PS4, but it doesn’t allow cross-console play on PS4. Cross-play refers to the ability to play games with other platforms, such as a PC, smartphones, or tablets. Cross-console play is about other competing consoles, such as the Xbox One or the Nintendo Switch.
It’s perhaps worth keeping in mind that Sony was actually one of the earliest supporters of cross-play; all the way back in the PlayStation 3 days, the company allowed console owners to compete against PC owners. This trend has continued through the PS4 and PS Vita, and its policy even helped it to secure console exclusives like Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn, which famously didn’t launch on the Xbox One because Microsoft prohibited cross-play at the time.
Why Doesn’t Sony Allow PS4 Owners to Play with Xbox One and Nintendo Switch Gamers?
Sony has built the largest online gaming network in the world on the PS4, and it sees this as a competitive advantage. Having the largest install base means that you need to own a PS4 in order to access it; there’s a good chance your friends already own a PS4, and so Sony wants you to buy its console to play with them on Call of Duty, Battlefield, and so on.
Enabling cross-console play on the PS4 would open up Sony’s entire userbase to the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, meaning that you wouldn’t necessarily need to purchase a PS4 to play with those 80 million plus people. While this would be of convenience to consumers, it’s easy to see why the company sees this as a competitive advantage, and won’t play ball.
A good point of comparison is exclusive games. Sony develops titles like Uncharted and God of War in order to help sell its console. As such, these games release exclusively on PlayStation platforms. The company could, if it wanted to, port these titles to PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, but it chooses not to because it uses them to sell its own hardware.
What Has Sony Said About Cross-Console Play?
Sony issued the following statement to the BBC outlining its stance on cross-console play. Here’s what it said:
We’re always open to hearing what the PlayStation community is interested in to enhance their gaming experience. Fortnite is already a huge hit with PS4 fans, offering a true free-to-play experience so gamers can jump in and play online. With 79 million PS4s sold around the world and 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.
Will Sony Ever Change Its Mind on Cross-Console Play?
The pressure on Sony to support cross-console play is arguably at the most intense it’s ever going to be right now, but the company is standing strong. In Sony’s eyes, it’s worked hard to cultivate a userbase of 80 million plus players, and it doesn’t want to hand that over to its competitors which have comparatively smaller userbases.
However, taking this stance makes the company look anti-consumer and tone deaf. Personally, we don’t think the organisation would be against cross-console play if it applied to just a handful of games, but by allowing it in Fortnite and Rocket League, it then opens the door for FIFA, Call of Duty, Battlefield, and more. Once the floodgates are open, they can’t be closed.
Sony is going to need to determine what’s going to have the biggest impact on its bottom line: squandering a sizeable competitive advantage or weathering a public relations nightmare. There’s no question that the bad publicity this is creating will hurt its reputation moving forwards, but it’s unclear how that will affect PlayStation console and software sales.
The only way to change the company’s mind will be to stop buying its products and playing its games, and make it clear that you’re boycotting the platform for this reason. With enough mainstream media pressure and a noticeable hit on its bottom line, the firm will be forced to reconsider. As things stand right now, though, we reckon it’s just going to try to ride things out.