Sony is on the wrong side of history.
Cross platform play has been a bit of a hot topic of late– the issue has gained limelight due to a multitude of games, big and small, announcing full cross platform play capabilities across the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC, leaving the PS4 to be an increasingly isolated island. Sony’s own statements, which have been misguided and a PR disaster, have added fuel to the fire, bringing the company more in the line of fire, and drawing more ire from people who want to see a cross platform future.
The truth of the matter is – and I will say this here without mincing words, or paying lip service to the idea of diplomacy – Sony is in the wrong here, plain and simple. Its entire stance on cross platform play is backwards, archaic, regressive, holding the industry back, and it is also hypocritical, for good measure.
Let’s start with the basics- cross platform play lets you play games with people on different platforms. This means that if you own Rocket League on PC, but your friend has it on Xbox, neither of you needs to rebuy it for a different system a second time- you can play together nonetheless. Cross platform play encompasses random matchmaking, as well as playing with friends, is usually hugely secure thanks to the stringent demands of all the different companies involved, and most of all, is optional– so if someone would, for whatever reason, rather not play with players outside of the ecosystem of their own system (I don’t get why someone would feel this way, but let’s entertain the thought and go with it), they can turn it off and move on with their lives. No one loses with cross platform play.
"Sony is in the wrong here, plain and simple. Its entire stance on cross platform play is backwards, archaic, regressive, holding the industry back, and it is also hypocritical, for good measure."
It’s a pro-consumer, pro-player move, as well as a progressive step towards the future of the industry. As we move towards an industry that is dominated by multiplatform games, platform agnostic middleware and services, and games themselves turning into services, cross platform play is the logical culmination. Sony, of course, themselves understand this- not only have they been championing the cause for a very long time now, but they even pioneered it this generation with games like Rocket League to begin with.
So, of course, it is baffling, the about turn they have made on the issue in recent times. For the longest time, we were told, we were led to believe, that Sony was all for cross platform play- that, in fact, it would welcome it, but Microsoft, of course, would never allow it. And to be fair, Microsoft did not allow it for the longest time (and they were in the wrong then). They only came about to allowing it last year, finally responding to the longstanding offer, and telling Sony that yes, yes, they will let PSN and Xbox Live players interact.
Sony’s response was radio silence. Multiple developers after that, including for games such as Tekken 7, Rocket League, and Gwent, told us that the ball was in Sony’s court, and they were dragging their feet. But with the PS4 and Xbox One being the only viable consoles on the market back then, it looked like an impasse- Xbox wanted full cross platform play, PlayStation didn’t. Stalemate.
That changed at E3 this year when Minecraft and Rocket League both confirmed that Switch would be joining the full cross platform play, leaving PlayStation as the odd man out. This announcement was honestly shocking- for Nintendo, a company famously averse and regressive when it comes to all things online, as well as a company demanding full control of the experience on its hardware, to allow cross platform play was big. Nintendo being on board meant that the momentum was decidedly on the pro-cross platform play side. And if Nintendo could be on board, Sony – the original champion of cross platform play, a company ‘#4ThePlayers’, had no reason to be flaking out. No excuse was acceptable.
"If Nintendo could be on board, Sony – the original champion of cross platform play, a company ‘#4ThePlayers’, had no reason to be flaking out. No excuse was acceptable."
Sony’s own official excuse, which stated that it was looking out ‘for the children’ among its install base, exacerbated matters. If Nintendo could be on board – and Nintendo is the company that has consistently hamstrung its own online functionality to keep it kid friendly – then Sony had no leg to stand on (especially since they do allow cross platform play with PC, which is the least kid friendly platform there is). A while later, it was revealed that Minecraft would need Xbox Live to achieve cross platform functionality on all platforms, even the Switch- which at least explains why Sony would say no to that. But games like Rocket League use platform and service agnostic backends to achieve this- so Sony, again, had and have no excuse for their larger stance on cross platform play.
Here is the true explanation according to me- Sony is in the lead. It does not want to cede that advantage of the larger install base by opening up cross platform play to Xbox and Nintendo, both of which put together are not equal to PlayStation’s install base yet. That is their reason. Cross platform play was for them a talking point, a way to portray themselves as being ‘for the gamer’; but it was not something they were willing to follow up on, and they have not. They are acting in their best interests- not in their consumers’. This is not a ‘#4TheGamers’ move, it is a move made in their own self interests.
And no, Sony fans should not accept this or defend this as they are not a Sony stakeholder nor employed by or working for Sony. As a consumer, they need to be asking Sony why it is consciously making decisions that will lead to inferior experiences for them. You can understand Sony’s business reasoning for doing what they are doing – I do – without being okay with it – I am not. Sony is apparently the company that does listen to fan feedback. One day in the future, all players of GTA: Online or Destiny could be playing together- but for that to happen, cross platform play needs to be a thing, and it is not being a thing because Sony is not allowing it.
"And no, Sony fans should not accept this or defend this as they are not a Sony stakeholder nor employed by or working for Sony. As a consumer, they need to be asking Sony why it is consciously making decisions that will lead to inferior experiences for them."
This is, ultimately, the latest in a long line of anti consumer moves Sony has made this generation. Inexplicable price raises for PS Plus. Not allowing mods on their system without considerable scalebacks. The omission of functionality in their ‘pro’ hardware. Their entire laughable stance towards backwards compatibility. Sony may say it is for the gamer, but it is no longer acting like it.
Meanwhile, Sony can continue to keep PlayStation an island, and keep having even a company like Nintendo make it look backwards in comparison in the online field. The rest of the world is moving towards a connected future, and Sony is getting left behind.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.