The console gaming community has been buzzing since Microsoft announced its plans to open the Xbox One and Xbox LIVE to other platforms earlier this week. Sony’s initial response appeared positive, as an official statement said it was “happy to have that conversation.” However, a new interview with Sony Worldwide Studios’ Shuhei Yoshida at the Game Developers Conference 2016 in San Francisco may have just thrown some cold water on the proposition.
Yoshida was speaking with Eurogamer for an interview about the PlayStation VR, but the topic of cross-platform play between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One was brought up. The Sony executive first seemingly avoided the question.
“I understand their policies changed, right?” Yoshida said. “They’re saying they’re going to do cross-platform play between Xbox One and PC with some games. We’ve been doing that with PS3 and PC, PS4 and PC most recently with Street Fighter 5 and Rocket League and other games. That’s nothing new for us, in terms of working with developers and publishers to allow cross-platform play between PC and PS4.”
Eurogamer’s Oli Welsh recognized the non-answer and then pressed the question of PS4 and Xbox One cross-platform play directly to Yoshida.
“Because PC is an open platform it’s much more straightforward. Connecting two different closed networks is much more complicated so we have to work with developers and publishers to understand what it is they are trying to accomplish,” Yoshida explained. “We also have to look at the technical aspect – and the technical aspect could be the easiest. We also have to look at policy issues and business issues as well.”
There are two ways to look at Yoshida’s answer. The first is Sony has not had an opportunity to discuss Microsoft’s proposal internally, especially with executives like Yoshida busy at GDC this week. The second way is Sony is trying to appear open to the proposition but ultimately doesn’t want to potentially weaken its console industry leading position by opening up cross-platform play with the Xbox One.
The PlayStation 4 currently enjoys a near two-to-one sales advantage to Microsoft’s console in worldwide sales. Does Sony maintain that advantage or potentially weaken it by opening up to the competition? It can rightly tout it already supports cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC, so why bring the Xbox One into the mix?
There are definitely technical hurdles to overcome as well. How will Microsoft and Sony decide which service hosts a gameplay session? How will game invites be handled, if at all? How will voice chat be handled, if at all? How will players see friends across platforms, if at all?
Microsoft threw the gauntlet down on opening up the Xbox One to cross-platform play to any system, but there is still much groundwork to be done. The cross-platform effort between the Xbox One and PC were previously limited to Windows 10 only. This now opens the console up to Steam as well as Electronic Arts’ Origin service and Ubisoft’s Uplay.
So far, Microsoft has not revealed any additional details for cross-play between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 at GDC this week. A presentation Wednesday focuses on Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform (UWP), DirectX 12, adding in more PC-specific features to Windows 10, and merging the Xbox and Windows Store. It also announced a partnership with Faceit and ESL to build an eSports platform into Xbox LIVE to make it easier for developers to support tournament play in their games.
Microsoft also has its annual Build conference planned for the end of March. Xbox Head Phil Spencer promised further discussion about Universal Windows Platform (UWP) during the recent controversy surrounding accusations that Microsoft was attempting to build a closed ecosystem by Epic Games founder Phil Sweeney.
What do you think about Yoshida’s comments? Too early to tell what direction Sony might go with cross-platform play with the Xbox One, or has Sony already made up its mind?
[Image via Sony]