In the wake of multiple games supporting cross-platform play, Sony PlayStation is defending its decision in not participating in the new initiative. For those that aren't aware, cross-platform or cross-network play allows for people playing a certain game (e.g. DC Universe Online) on one platform (i.e. PC) with players from another platform (i.e. Xbox One). The idea of playing with people on another system is something that was once considered a pipe dream, but the concept has been picking up in recent years.
Microsoft has been one of the industry's pioneers in supporting cross-network play with their Play Anywhere initiative (allowing cross-play between Xbox One and PC), and they have taken a step further with establishing cross-platform play for Minecraft between virtually every system, except for PlayStation devices. Same goes for Rocket League, which Psyonix said this morning would support cross-play between Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, but not PS4. It turns out, Sony is the one blocking its users from playing with people on other systems.
In response to the news that Rocket League would also not support cross-play with PlayStation systems, Eurogamer questioned Sony PlayStation sales and marketing boss Jim Ryan on the matter. He defended the decision to not support cross-play with other game consoles, saying that they have a responsibility to their stakeholders (and install base) first, though they aren't opposed to the idea of cross-platform play.
"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."
Interestingly, Sony does believe in the core concept of cross-platform play, particularly between PlayStation system and PC users. They were on the forefront of cross-network play in the mid-2000s, with games such as Final Fantasy XI. However, they have not contributed to the concept of establishing cross-network compatibility between PlayStation consoles and consoles built by other manufacturers - namely the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch - presumably because they view other consoles as direct competitors, whereas PC gaming is another space entirely.
"We've got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft - the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it's all ages but it's also very young. 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."
Cross-platform play is one of the next steps in the gaming industry. Unifying consumers from all corners of the industry for one cohesive experience is something that developers and console manufacturers alike should strive to achieve together. In doing so, that would make great strides in curbing the alienation of consumer bases, and perhaps even extend the life of certain games; more players equals longer lifetimes.
Also, cross-platform play would all but eliminate the notion of people purchasing a particular console just so they can play with their friends. It allows for greater freedom and pushes for more technological innovation. In order for all of that to happen, though, developers, publishers, and console manufacturers need to work together to establish cross-play compatibility. What's interesting is that, Psyonix has previously stated that it would only take them a few hours to implement cross-platform play between PS4 and other consoles; they just need Sony's permission to do it.