Crossplay is one of gaming's newer buzz words that only distinguish a smattering of online titles from the rest, but it's time for full-platform crossplay to become the standard rather than the exception. Online play lives and dies based on active player counts, and it's foolish for publishers and developers to continue hamstringing their own games' longevity and player experience based on platform in the modern gaming landscape.
Last year, the mainstream gaming world learned exactly how easy it actually is for developers to enable crossplay across all platforms when Fortnite became the first game ever to be playable everywhere for everyone (only after Sony's stubborn arrogance gave way, of course.) Following Epic Games was Psyonix with Rocket League, and the smaller developer described the update to be as simple as pushing a button. Though some games like Minecraft have limited crossplay, no other multiplayer title has enabled crossplay between all its available platforms, and it's a real shame that's the case. Late last year, Epic even released the developer tools needed to implement cross-platform play for free, and the fact that the industry at large ignored this and went on with business as usual points to the less-than-generous motivations behind the actions of companies intentionally holding their playerbases back.
Crossplay isn't quite as new as the mainstream gaming community thinks, but this console generation has been the first to break the mold and prove crossplay's relative ease and effectiveness. So why hasn't this generation been the era of crossplay, then? There have been massive steps toward normalizing things like crossplay and seeing Xbox Live on mobile phones and Nintendo's flagship console that would have once blown gamers' collective minds, but the same backwards interpretation of market forces that spurred Microsoft to rebuff Sony's cross-platform efforts when it "won" the last console generation continue to prevail. Put simply, those who are ahead in the game of console sales tend to view engaging in crossplay as helping out the competition, and this time around it's largely been Sony refusing to work with rival Microsoft.
However, this line of logic has been laid bare as deeply flawed - Fortnite, the most popular multiplayer game in recent memory, has had full crossplay enabled for some time now. Despite this, PS4 players' ability to play with friends and strangers on the Xbox One (or any other console) didn't serve to prevent some imminent collapse of the latter console's playerbase, nor did it harm PS4-specific player count in any perceivable way. All it did was let more people play Fortnite together.
When the average gamer already owns a console (or two if they're lucky), there's very little that can feasibly incentivize them to purchase another gaming machine for hundreds of dollars. A few might jump ship to another console to play with friends or even plan initial generational purchases with them in order to not get separated by the invisible platform divide, but it's a safe bet that this factor pales in comparison to more important criteria like game library, innovation, and novelty. Above all else, it's annoying and mildly unethical for platforms to still be bullying their consumers into switching to or sticking with their console when the modern console market game, what with newer generations' newfound longevity and increased connectivity, hardly resembles the one that "winners" like Sony are still trying to play.
Being anti-crossplay in 2019 is being anti-consumer, and anti-consumerism will only get leading companies so far when massive threats like Google Stadia's embrace of crossplay right out of the gate loom in the near-future. Unless the goal is to get players to double-dip and purchase the same game multiple times - which is equally manipulative and tactless - it should be kept in mind that players wouldn't be asking for crossplay in the first place if they didn't already have the intention of sticking with whatever console whose manufacturer is desperate to keep them.