One of Microsoft’s big initiatives this generation is giving players freedom of choice as to how and where they play its games. This began last year with its Play Anywhere service, which essentially allowed players to play a number of Microsoft’s first-party titles on PC or Xbox One after purchasing a digital copy. The next step for the company was cross-play, linking fans through multiplayer games regardless of the platform they were on. While PC and Xbox users have been enjoying this feature, it seems Sony is still not willing to budge on the matter.
Speaking at the Brazil Game Show, Xbox Head, Phil Spencer admitted that Microsoft continues to speak with Sony regarding the matter of cross-play. Unfortunately, the conversations have gone nowhere, and while Microsoft will continue to keep an open dialogue regarding cross-play, the lack of progress leaves Spencer believing that Sony will likely never come around on it.
“I have a real struggle making comments about their motivation or timelines. I know there is a certain view that says if my friends have this console, they can’t play with people who buy another console. That’s a reason they go buy my console. That reason is not going to go away. So we’re putting Minecraft out there as one of the biggest games on any platform and allowing people to play together regardless of what device they bought. I don’t think everybody is taking that same approach to the ecosystem. So I’m never going to call anything a lost cause but I think some of the fundamental reasons and certain scenarios, they’re not really going away. So I don’t know what would change.”
One of the driving forces for Spencer and his team at Microsoft is that cross-play really benefits gamers. On a base level, cross-play expands the player pools for online games, giving developers access to a wider population than they’d normally have with platform-specific titles. In addition, having a shared online experience also simplifies the number of elements developers need to account for during the development phase. Instead of creating five different versions of a game for every platform, the number of difficult matchmaking scenarios that need to be considered is reduced.
I think people look at [cross-play] and say is it better for gamers. If it’s better for gamers, I have a hard time thinking why we shouldn’t go do this, especially when you’re trying to make the gaming business a bigger business; grow it, get more games, create more opportunity.
Even without Sony, other companies have been more receptive to the popular idea of cross-play. Nintendo has proven to be a strong proponent of the idea, supporting cross play with PC and XBox users through games like Rocket League and Minecraft. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t appear that Sony’s reluctance is over technical issues however as Fortnite proved cross-play can be done between the two rivals after it accidentally enabled the feature between PS4 and Xbox One users. While the feature was praised by many and increased the player pool for online games, it was quickly disabled once it was found.