This past week, news broke that Sony had apparently moved past its cross-play beta program and would begin broadly accepting cross-play for all PS4 games going forward.
Sony's claim has come under scrutiny since, however, largely due to past comments from Sony regarding its position on cross-play. Also questioned is whether support for cross-play will come at the expense of other cross-platform features like cross-saves and cross-progression.
Just a day prior to the revelation that Sony had ended its self-described "beta" for cross-play, the CEO of War Thunder developer Gaijin Entertainment offered up a curious statement regarding PlayStation cross-play policy changes. According to Anton Yudintsev, "New policies [on PlayStation] are not just 'better for cross-play.' They also add some limitations compared to the old ones." Yudintsev says that these new policies will force Gaijin to remove cross-progression between PC and PS4. He adds that the company is still in discussion regarding the issue.
Today another interesting situation cropped up. Civilization 6 developer Firaxis confirmed that the upcoming console release of the strategy game would feature cross-saves across all platforms except on PS4. Firaxis didn't provide further information about the situation or why cross-saves won't be available on such a popular platform.
The situation goes back to when then-chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios Shawn Layden declared the PS4 "open for business" on cross-play in February earlier this year. Multiple developers then publicly spoke out saying this wasn't true. Chucklefish's CEO said Sony told them Wargroove cross-play "was not going to happen." Hi-Rez Studios' CEO similarly dropped a not-so-subtle tweet, saying, "It's time to stop playing favorites and tear down the cross-play/progression wall for everyone."
It's difficult to ascertain whether anything has significantly changed at Sony since February when Shawn Layden made his initial announcement. Cross-play between PS4 and other consoles is still rare and there's little evidence thus far that it's expanding. Meanwhile, in the case of both Civilization 6 and War Thunder, there's evidence that Sony's internal policy for allowing cross-platform features may be limiting in new ways.
Whether Sony has implemented new policies limiting cross-saves and cross-progression isn't clear. But it wouldn't be irrational to assume Sony is continuing to broadly limit these features, if only to avoid the possibility of a PS4 player moving to another console. It may be better to remain skeptical about cross-platform features on PS4, or even the PS5.