The debate over supporting cross-play between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One took an interesting twist over the last few days as Epic Games’ Fortnite mistakenly enabled the two consoles to play online together over the weekend. The two gardens were walled off once again, but not before weakening Sony’s arguments to prevent the two sides from coming together.
Fortnite players on Reddit were the first to spot Xbox One names while playing the game on their PS4 and vice versa due to PlayStation Networks IDs not supporting spaces in names while Xbox LIVE does. This even included a father and son playing together on different consoles
The news was soon picked up by Eurogamer and other outlets Monday. Epic Games responded by disabling support for Fortnite‘s console cross-play and releasing the following statement that demonstrates just how feeble of an argument Sony has to block the feature:
We had a configuration issue and it has now been corrected.
This led Xbox Boss Phil Spencer to Tweet, “I would have liked to see them leave it on.”
A Sony executive oddly expressed concern about its console owners, especially children, playing outside of the PlayStation Network walled garden. This was odd given the support of PS4 and Steam PC cross-play, but the Fortnite incident shows that the Earth still rotated after Epic accidentally “crossed the streams.”
Epic Games built Fortnite using the Unreal Engine, one of the most ubiquitous, if not the most ubiquitous, game engine available to developers. If a simple configuration change is all it takes to allow PS4 and Xbox One gamers to play together, then Sony’s “For the Players” slogan it used to browbeat Microsoft over its stumbling Xbox One rollout has been drug behind a barn and buried.
As previously covered, Microsoft began pushing for cross-platform play between different console networks and PC services like Steam in March 2016. Rocket League developers Psyonix were one of the first to hop on board as they already supported cross-play between the PlayStation 4 and PC.
Sony threw cold water on the idea after Microsoft’s initial announcement and continued to obfuscate when asked about it later in 2016. This led to a view from many in the gaming community that the console maker saw its huge console lead as a reason not to entertain cross-play with Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE network.
Since then, more games have come out to support playing across platforms. This list includes Minecraft currently building support to play across the Xbox One, Windows 10 PCs, mobile devices, and even the Nintendo Switch. Yes, even Nintendo is joining in on the cross-platform play movement.
The only argument Sony has to continue the console war stance of the 1990s and 2000s is its own self-interest in keeping the PS4 sales lead dominance. Microsoft’s stance obviously changed following the shakeup that saw most of the Xbox One leadership behind the Xbox One launch ousted and Phil Spencer guiding the ship. Hopefully, it won’t take a similar shakeup for the PlayStation leadership team to alter its position on cross-platform play.
[Image by Epic Games]