by Rob Williams on June 15, 2017 in Editorials & Interviews, Gaming
For the first time ever, we have the prospect of gamers being able to play their favorite titles with their friends on different platforms. Minecraft and Rocket League are primed to become spearheads for the feature, but one stubborn holdout is happy to throttle progress. What is Sony thinking, and why is cross-play so important? We’re discussing that, and more, inside.
The timing of this is impeccable. Last weekend, I penned a post singing the praises of cross-play – the ability to play with your friends even though they may be on a different platform. For the first time ever with console gaming, we have the prospect of cross-play becoming a de facto feature, rather than a super-rare or almost unknown one. Unfortunately, despite being close to achieving that, Sony has decided that its own interests are more important than those of its customers.
Sony’s message with its PlayStation 4 has been “This Is For The Players”, but its current actions fly in the face of that. And who’s surprised? No one? I’m still sore over the removal of Linux on the PlayStation 3. And the neutering of that console’s backwards compatibility. And the fact that Microsoft lets you play your Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One without added cost, while the only option is paid access on the PS side.
But none of that is neither here nor there. In that aforementioned post, I gave Microsoft and Forza Horizon 3‘s developer kudos for implementing cross-play support. Having played Rocket League on multiple platforms, I already experienced cross-play to some degree, but FH3 takes things to another level. Without issue, I’ve been playing the PC version of the game with my Xbox-owning friend. Not a single thing on either of our ends makes it obvious that we’re on different platforms, and it’s a testament to how awesome this functionality can be.
At this week’s E3, it was revealed that both Rocket League and Minecraft would become cross-play titles with Nintendo’s Switch. With Minecraft in particular, someone on mobile could play with their PC friends in the same world, and likewise, Switch and Xbox One gamers can jump-in just the same. The absolutely only holdout is Sony, and that makes me livid.
Rocket League developer Psyonix cares as much about cross-play as we do
If you don’t think cross-play support is that important, consider the fact that way too many gaming communities die off far too quickly. Guess what would remedy that? A pooling of the entire playerbase, of course. Imagine a world where 100% of the playerbase isn’t divvied up three or more different ways; where that 100% is together. That’s not just convenient, it’s a lot healthier for gaming communities.
I couldn’t count the number of threads I’ve seen over the years of players complaining about no one being online on their respective platform of choice. If playerbases were one and the same, those communities simply wouldn’t die out as quickly. Picture this: two years after a game launches, the community is dead. But, you go to a forum, and say you want to play with someone. The chances of someone answering that plays on the same platform is likely rare. Open up the floodgates for all players to intertwine with each other, and that problem is negated.
Beyond that, no one should have to own every single platform in order to play with their friends. Exclusives are an unfortunate reality, but those are what will help people choose one platform over the other. People who choose PlayStation, for example, should not be locked out of playing cross-platform games with their friends. Especially when the absolutely only missing link is that platform.
Forza Horizon 3 is an amazing example of what cross-play can be
In an interview with Eurogamer, PS marketing chief Jim Ryan said this:
“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.”
What a joke. That’s as good a scapegoat excuse as one could get. I say this as someone who has been abused through PS messaging after a great PvP session in Destiny, and who’s been spammed to oblivion with scam URLs to buy cheap game cards.
The fact is, bad apples exist on every platform, and each vendor will worry about their own. Anyone who ever goes online in a game is warned ahead of time that the experiences are outside of the control of the developer, and that’s enough. When is the last time you thought of Sony as being a nurturing mother-like company? Give me a break. Nintendo, one of the most family friendly companies on Earth is opting into cross-play support. Enough said.
Ryan also went on to say that the company isn’t against the concept of cross-play per se, but the reason for the holdout is commercial:
“It’s certainly not a profound philosophical stance we have against this. We’ve done it in the past. We’re always open to conversations with any developer or publisher who wants to talk about it. Unfortunately it’s a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I’m not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling.”
You’re damn right they are, Jim.
Most online games could be cross-play, but there are exceptions (like Destiny 2)
To cover all of my bases, I should note that I don’t think all games should be cross-play, but an overwhelming majority of online games could be. Games like Destiny 2 would be hard to justify as a cross-play title only because of the PvP element: PC gamers would have an obvious advantage. But that doesn’t mean that Xbox vs. PS shouldn’t be possible. It also doesn’t mean that PvE content in the same game couldn’t be cross-play, but a split-up design like that is not one I’d expect to see from a company that couldn’t care less about catering to fan demands of 60 FPS.
But back to the usual programming:
Sony, if the PlayStation 4 is indeed “For The Players”, prove it.
As for you players, if you care at all about cross-play support, make sure that Sony understands your distaste. You can do so even if you don’t play on PlayStation or have any friends who use the platform.
Cross-play is ultimately a great thing for all of us.