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Industry reacts to Sony's cross-play U-turn

Microsoft keen to connect Minecraft players, Bethesda says no plans for Fallout 76, but hope remains for Rocket League and Hearthstone

It appears Sony's announcement that it is finally allowing cross-play between PlayStation 4 and other consoles hasn't exactly opened the floodgates. Nevertheless, developers and publishers are pleased the platform holder has changed its stance.

The company announced yesterday that Fortnite would be the first title to let PS4 owners play against Xbox One and Nintendo Switch users, with CEO John Kodera saying it is now considering supporting cross-platform features for "select third-party content."

Various games firms have reacted to the news via Twitter, responding to consumer queries as to whether their games will also support cross-play.

Most notably, the official Microsoft account responded with a raised hands emoji, while a spokesperson told IGN it was hopeful this would lead to more compatible titles.

"We believe in giving gamers the opportunity to play the games they want with the people they want," they told the site. "Whether that means working with our partners to deliver cross-network play with games like Rocket League and Fortnite or enabling cross-device play with the likes of Minecraft, we are supportive of new scenarios that enable more people to play and have fun together while gaming.

"We would love to bring players on PlayStation 4 into our Minecraft ecosystem as well, but have nothing further to share at this time."

Microsoft has been a staunch supporter of cross-play in recent months, perhaps in part because Sony has been repeatedly adamant that it would not allow connections between the consoles. The Xbox firm even teamed up with Nintendo for an unprecedented joint marketing campaign, promoting cross-play for Minecraft between its own consoles and the Switch.

Another keen supporter of cross-play has been Rocket League developer Psyonix, with the firm's publishing VP Jeremy Dunham declaring Sony's decision a "great step forward" via Twitter.

"We know that our own [Rocket League] community wants to know what this means for them, but we don't have any updates [at the moment]. In the meantime, we recommend reaching out to Sony for comment."

It's a similar story with Bethesda; the firm applauded the move but has no confirmed plans for its upcoming titles. The publisher's global communications boss Pete Hines offered a "well done" to Sony via Twitter, before adding that: "Fallout 76 does not support cross-play, for a number of reasons. I have no idea if it ever will. But I assure you it is not on our radar right not as we focus on B.E.T.A. and launch."

His comments echo those of Bethesda director Todd Howard, who previously said cross-play isn't possible in Fallout 76. While he implied at the time this was partly due to lack of co-operation from Sony, Hines' comments suggest more complex issues.

Hines has previously said cross-play was important to the future of The Elder Scrolls: Legends, so it's more likely this will become compatible in the future.

Finally, IGN also received a response from Activision as to whether its own titles - including Call of Duty, Destiny and Overwatch - are likely to introduce cross-play.

"We've had a great experience with cross-play for Hearthstone on other platforms and have witnessed how compelling it can be for our community," a spokesperson said. "There's still a lot of work to do on both our side and the platform side to understand whether cross-play might be integrated into our other games, so we'll be watching the upcoming test and will assess what the potential impact of this feature would be for our players and our games."

The reference to Fortnite's cross-play as a test is crucial here, as this is exactly how Sony sees it. Yesterday, Kodera said the beta gave the platform holder a chance to "conduct thorough testing that ensures cross-platform play is best on PlayStation", suggesting the company's rigid stance on what its players can access hasn't loosened as much as people might hope.

It's unreasonable to expect a flood of announcements this soon after Sony confirming the Fortnite beta, with the platform holder more likely to reach out to developers about adding cross-play if the test shows there is enough demand for it.

And demand remains questionable; while the issue has been a hot topic on social media and in the press over the past year, a recent GameTrack survey conducted for GamesIndustry.biz shows 58% of gamers are "indifferent" to the concept, with only a third believing it to be a positive trend.

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Latest comments (3)

Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, Ludia22 days ago
People think it's just a matter of adding one line of code like "def.cross_platform.compatibility == true" and magically your beloved game is cross-platform compatible :D
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James Batchelor UK Editor, GamesIndustry.biz21 days ago
@Daniel Trezub: One of the many, many things consumers fail to understand about the industry. Right up there with the fact that games often change dramatically between first previews and release, and why Mario Kart isn't available on Xbox. ;-)
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Tudor Nita Lead Programmer, Gameloft Romania20 days ago
Not sure what to say about this. Most online platforms /systems worth their salt are:
A. Platform agnostic
B. Internal ( not relying on platform held servers/ matchmakers/ etc )
At least all the ones I've seen, certainly are. Meaning cross-platform online capabilities are already there, and ironically, bypassed with a #define similar to what Daniel wrote. [ I am over simplifying this, but the point stands ]

The real difficult bit imho is keeping multiplatform releases in sync. And I mean both the actual release dates ( trc/ qa/ etc) and the ( usually non online related ) codebase that affects gameplay. Considering most companies have different studios handling different platforms, this is not only difficult to coordinate, but at the end of the day, costly as well.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tudor Nita on 29th September 2018 8:06pm

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