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Microsoft and Nintendo embrace cross-platform play - but where's Sony?

PlayStation absent from cross-platform strategy of both Minecraft and Rocket League

When Rocket League launches for Nintendo Switch later this year, users on all platforms will be able to come together and play - all platforms, that is, except PlayStation 4.

In addition to the exclusive content that Psyonix is making for the Switch version of the game - which includes Mario and Luigi hats, and "Exclusive Battle-Cars" that really ought to be vehicles from Mario Kart - Nintendo customers will also be able to access cross-platform play with Xbox One and PC at launch.

Rocket League has a community of 32 million players, according to Psyonix, but a significant portion of that group remains isolated from the rest. In an interview with Polygon, VP of publishing Jeremy Dunham said that Sony had yet to give its permission for PlayStation 4 users to be connected to other platforms.

"We think we've been big champions of this for the last two years trying to get people behind the idea," Dunham said. "We believe it's the future of the industry, and we're hopeful that maybe the community and the media can actually help get around the idea of pushing it forward and doing what we can to make it reality. It's our dream."

"Unfortunately it's a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders"

Jim Ryan, SIE

Out of all the companies involved, Psyonix said that Microsoft has the "most complex" security requirements, which have all now been handled. At this point, the company said, "All we have to do is check that box and it would be up and running in less than an hour all over the world."

And yet Sony has not given the okay to make it happen, despite Psyonix being willing to, "do whatever we would need to do to make it possible." Our colleagues at Eurogamer spoke to Sony Interactive Entertainment's Jim Ryan yesterday, who claimed that Sony doesn't have "a profound philosophical stance" against cross-platform play.

"We've done it in the past," Ryan insisted. "Unfortunately it's a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I'm not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling."

Purely in terms of PR, Sony is handing Microsoft - a company with its own stakeholders and commercial considerations - a win with its reluctance to allow cross-platform play. Indeed, this is the second instance this week that has exposed the difference in the two companies' attitudes towards their customers - the majority of whom would welcome cross-platform experiences.

At the Xbox press conference, Mojang announced the "Better Together" upgrade for Minecraft, which will unify players on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, mobile and VR. PlayStation was, again, absent from the list of participants, and a spokesperson for the game could only reiterate the goal to "bring every Minecraft player together" when asked about Sony's whereabouts.

When Eurogamer asked Jim Ryan about Sony's position on Minecraft, he cited issues of player safety. "We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe," he said. "Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it's something we have to think about very carefully."

Microsoft, meanwhile, has seized the opportunity to win a few hearts and minds.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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