It’s no secret that the reason cross-platform play wasn’t a bigger thing last generation was because of Sony. With a comfortable lead the the console sales race, they probably didn’t see much need for it. But we didn’t know just how against it they were until today, when more documents leaked from the ongoing legal battle between Epic and Apple, as reported by The Verge.
Players were unhappy with Sony’s decision after they blocked cross-platform play on Minecraft and Rocket League despite buy-ins from Microsoft and Nintendo, but what really set things off was their decision to block cross-platform play for Fortnite in 2018. Now, these documents confirm what most of us already know. Sony blocked cross-platform play because they thought it would make them less money.
In the months leading up to Sony’s decision, Fortnite developer Epic Games had been pleading with Sony to allow cross-platform play on the title. Epic, however, knew that cross-platform play was an inevitability. “I can’t think of a scenario where Epic doesn’t get what we want – that possibility went out the door when Fortnite became the biggest game on PlayStation,” said Joe Kreiner, Epic’s vice president of business development.
And it wasn’t like Epic wasn’t trying. There was plenty they were offering to sweeten the pot for Sony. Kreiner proposed, “We announce crossplay in conjunction with Sony. Epic goes out of its way to make Sony look like heroes.” Epic also offered to brand its E3 presence with PlayStation or add characters that would be exclusive to PlayStation Plus subscribers. “Let’s make this a huge win for us all. Epic’s not changing it’s mind on the issue, so let’s just agree on it now,” said Kreiner.
Sony refused. “As you know, many companies are exploring this idea and not a single one can explain how cross-console play improves the PlayStation business,” said Gio Corsi, who was Sony’s senior director of developer relations at the time.
In April of 2019, Sony proposed a system that would allow cross-platform play but force publishers to pay Sony royalties whenever PlayStation players contributed more than a certain percentage to the revenue of a cross-platform game to “offset the reduction in revenue” Sony would experience. There’s no word on whether Microsoft and Nintendo have similar arrangements or if this system is currently in place at Sony.
While Sony’s position is bad for players, it isn’t surprising. This reports just confirms what many of us already suspected. Cross-platform play should be the standard in multi-platform titles. Hopefully, as time goes on, it will be.