Sony's cross-play "beta" for the PlayStation 4, in which the company allowed just a handful of hand-picked games to implement cross-play, is officially over. Support for cross-play functionality is moving forward on PS4, meaning that any studio interested in cross-play for it game should now have Sony's approval to implement it. Given that Sony's previously said that cross-play is open to all developers, it remains to be seen exactly how the process has changed -- if at all.
The news stems from a Wired interview with Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan speaking about PlayStation Now and the future of cloud services. The news regarding PS4 cross-play was said almost off-handedly. The quiet confirmation is somewhat understandable given the context of Sony's slow-moving progress on cross-play, but at the same time, cross-play is a highly demanded feature by a large amount of PS4 players. Perhaps Sony doesn't want to make it a bigger announcement until more games are ready to implement the feature.
Why Sony decided to move forward on cross-play now isn't wholly clear, but Ryan does provide some perspective: "The track record of the incumbent platform winning the next time around is not a great one. So the major thrust of my executive energy is to avoid complacency." In so many words, Ryan is saying that not implementing cross-play poses a risk. With the PS5's 2020 arrival on the horizon, Ryan is doing what he can to minimize said risk.
Games that currently feature full cross-play on PS4 include Dauntless, Fortnite, Paladins, Realm Royale, Rocket League, Smite, and the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will support cross-play at launch. More than two dozen other games feature limited cross-play between PS4 and PC. Hopefully exiting the PS4 cross-play beta also means that these games with limited cross-play will be able to expand to the Xbox One, too.
It's worth restating that while Sony may be saying that cross-play has moved out of its "beta" period and should now be widely available, nothing may necessarily change. In February earlier this year, then-chairman Shawn Layden said that cross-play was available to all developers. The statement was almost immediately refuted by multiple studios, which, to various degrees, made clear that it wasn't entirely accurate. Basically, Sony could "open" cross-play up, but still make it inaccessible to the majority of developers. Hopefully, that isn't the case.