Cross platform play happening is only a matter of time—is Fortnite the game that will lead us there?
Cross platform play has been a big deal, and a major topic of discussion, over the last year or so. As a topic, it started gaining traction when Microsoft finally capitulated to demands to open up Xbox Live at long last—and it turned out that, in the process, they called out Sont’s bluff, who had long implied that they would be willing to do cross platform play if only Microsoft would play ball. But it escalated and became a huge topic of discussion once it was revealed last E3 that no less a company than Nintendo would be allowing for cross platform play on the Nintendo Switch, with Minecraft and Rocket League announced as the first beneficiaries of the move.
If a company like Nintendo—a company that traditionally likes to keep its ecosystem locked down and insular, a company that wants to control the experience users have on its platform every step of the way, a company almost overbearingly protective of younger children on its systems, a company that still trails behind the competion in most aspects when it comes to internet and services—if Nintendo could allow for cross platform play, surely it would only be a matter of time before Sony finally relented too, right?
But as time went by, it became clear that Sony had no intention of changing its mind on the matter. They made a pretty tone deaf statement about wanting to keep kids safe (which made no sense, since a) Nintendo is allowing it, and b) they still allow cross platform play with PC, which is arguably the most unmoderated community), and more and more games and developers have since made it clear that Sony is the one holding them back from acbieving true cross platform play—including Bandai Namco with Tekken, CD Projekt RED with Gwent, and, most recently, Epic Games with Fortnite.
"Fortnite is a bit of a unique case—it is the most popular game in the world right now, and it is also the game which has multiple times, out of sheer mistake (allegedly), activated cross platform play between PS4 and Xbox—illustrating just how easy it apparently it is to achieve this, if Sony would only just allow developers to do it."
The case of Fortnite here is the most curious and compelling one, and the one we do want to discuss today. Fortnite is a bit of a unique case—it is the most popular game in the world right now, and it is also the game which has multiple times, out of sheer mistake (allegedly), activated cross platform play between PS4 and Xbox—illustrating just how easy it apparently it is to achieve this, if Sony would only just allow developers to do it.
Fortnite is also the game which is coming to other platforms (including iOS and Android devices, with a Switch version being something that has been floated for the future), all of which interact with each other, and with either the PS4 or the Xbox One—but the latter two won’t with each other, which only highlights the stark divide even more. The developer, Epic Games, has additionally spoken about how much it believes that cross platform play is the future, even making remarks recently at GDC that it believes that Sony relenting and capitulating is only a matter of time and nothing else.
Given just how popular Fortnite is, if nothing else, it has to be a matter of time before Sony relents, right? After all, Fortnite’s success gives Epic Games a lot of leverage with which to push for it. Eventually they have to allow cross platform play between PS4 and other consoles, right? And if they do it for this none game, then the floodgates are open, and they will have to allow other titles as well, right?
I want to say that yes, it’s only a matter of time before Sony agrees—but I do want to examine some of the counter-arguments here as well. For example, one might be inclined to say that Minecraft, which was (and remains) even more popular, available on even more systems, could not manage to get Sony to allow for cross-platform play—even with developers Moran’s holding the Bedrock Engine (with the 4K update) and Better Together (and associated perks) hostage to cross-platform play. Why would Fortnite be the game that gets through to Sony when Minecraft didn’t?
Of course, smart and astute readers have already figured out the flaw in this analogy here. Minecraft, you see, is a Microsoft owned property—and it uses Xbox Live logins to achieve cross platform play. I can even see Sony not necessarily being a fan of a game asking for an XBL login on the PS4, and thus, I can see them blocking Minecraft for that reason. Other titles, such as Rocket League or Tekken, don’t use Xbox Live for cross platform play, but other developer implemented custom account models—but they’re not as popular as Minecraft is to be able to push through Sony’s stubbornness.
While, much like Epic Games, I do believe that it is only a matter of time before Sony has to allow cross-platform play, and I think it will be sooner rather than later, I don’t think it will be just one game that does it.
But then there is Fortnite: a game that neither uses Xbox Live to achieve cross platform play, nor has the problem of not being popular enough. Surely, now is the time? Surely, now is the perfect storm? The world’s most popular game, a game that allows for cross platform play with everything else, and a developer who is strongly and assertively pushing for full cross platform and cross network gaming… it has to happen now, right?
I want to say yes—I want to say it’s only a matter of time. But as big as Fortnite is, it is, ultimately, still just one game. While, much like Epic Games, I do believe that it is only a matter of time before Sony has to allow cross-platform play, and I think it will be sooner rather than later, I don’t think it will be just one game that does it, and I don’t think it will be Fortnite that turns out to be that game anyway. I think it will be one of those games—but in the future, I hope that developers like Rockstar, Activision, and EA will be pushing Sony, so they can allow for cross platform play in Call of Duty, or Battlefield, or GTA Online. Those games, and Fortnite, Rocket League, Minecraft, and so on? Then I can see Sony eventually capitulating and finally acceding to cross platform play as a reality. Until then? It remains an almost achievable, but still not quite there, pipe dream, sadly enough.