This all stems from a couple of pretty big E3 2017 announcements by Microsoft and Nintendo. Minecraft, one of the biggest and most widely available games on the planet, is going cross-platform, finally unifying all the individual versions in one glorious block. Xbox, PC, mobile, Nintendo Switch, all will be able to play along together as one big happy family.
Rocket League developer, Psyonix, also announced Rocket League for Nintendo Switch. A great announcement on its own for Nintendo fans, but made even more exciting by the news that version will join the current Xbox One-PC cross-platform play family.
The notable absentee in both cases is Sony. It's not as if it can't be done, because it can. But why isn't it happening? Sony's 'defense' of the subject is pretty questionable.
It's rattled more than a few cages, and at E3 the folks at Eurogamer sat down with Sony's global sales and marketing head, Jim Ryan, to ask why PS4 players can't play with their buddies on other systems.
Jim Ryan: 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.
Jim Ryan: Yeah. 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.
So apparently it's both a commercial decision and protecting the kids. Both sound pretty thin in terms of reasoning, especially considering that Nintendo has a pretty strong youth following. But beyond that, what about parents?
With my son, I control what he can and can't see, what he does and doesn't play (he loves Forza!). Sony is apparently happy to turn a blind eye to blatant under 18s playing and talking smack in Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield 1 and other somewhat inappropriate titles for children. The whole "curated universe" thing sounds like a cop-out, frankly.
But again, the parents should be controlling that. Not Sony. After all, there are age limits to having a Sony PSN account, too:
"There are two types of Sony Online Network accounts: Master Accounts and Sub Accounts. You must be 18 years or older to create and hold a Master Account. Sub Accounts are for children from ages 7 to 17."
Microsoft often gets a rough deal in the press and to some extent in the community over how Xbox does its business. But here's the thing. Microsoft buzzes about Xbox being the best place to play your games, whoever made them, and things like this are a solid reason to believe it. Instead of hiding from something which is a pretty momentous deal for gamers, Microsoft is actively encouraging it.
I have a PS4 and a Switch, as well as an Xbox One. I'm probably not alone there, but the point still stands. When it comes to third-party games, should it really matter which console you bought in order to play with your friends? There always needs to be a differentiator, but if a developer wants to ignore platform bias and let everyone play together, then the winner is us. The gamers.
Sony keeps saying about the PS4 that it's "for the players." Right now there are plenty of those players that are pretty miffed.
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