You can play the battle-royale game Fortnite with your friends in just about any configuration you can imagine: From Xbox to their Android. From PC to iPhone. From Xbox to Switch. But your PlayStation friends? They’re stuck on PlayStation. And right now, these poor gamers’ PlayStation Fortnite accounts can’t log into anything but PlayStation – while the rest of us are able to take the same account from Microsoft to Apple to Nintendo to Google. Sony has offered a few different responses to this, but they mostly end up sounding like “we make too much money to care about this.” In a new statement to Eurogamer, Sony boss Shawn Layden offers up a hopeful but still largely uninformative response.
Eurogamer put the question to Layden like this: “There seems to be an issue at the moment, that Sony isn’t listening to its players… and I wondered if there were any plans to open it up?”
“We’re hearing it,” Layden said. “We’re looking at a lot of the possibilities. You can imagine the circumstances around that affect a lot more than just one game. I’m confident we’ll get to a solution which will be understand and accepted by our gaming community, while at the same time supporting our business.”
Oof, Shawn. Oof. This issue has been brewing for a while now. Games like Minecraft and Rocket League have had or been working up to crossplay for the last year or so. Then, Epic “accidentally” turned on Xbox-PlayStation cross-play, showing everyone that it’s almost literally the flip of a switch to make it work. It came to a head at E3 a couple weeks back, though, when the super-popular Fortnite came to Switch.
The Nintendo Switch is a hugely popular system with a fast-growing fanbase, and the addition brought millions of new users hungry for a fresh gaming experience to Epic’s free-to-play battle-royale. This is when people started to realize that Sony has taken a draconian stance with Fortnite accounts. A PlayStation Fortnite account can’t be used with other services, and Fortnite accounts that have been used on other services can’t be used on PlayStation. That means that while all the things you’ve bought on Xbox will work on Switch, they won’t carry over to PS4.
Fortnite is, without question, the biggest game around right now. Whether it’ll be that way in a year or two is another question entirely, but right now it’s huge on a scale that no other game has been huge before, and it’s forcing Sony into a corner with regard to cross-platform play.
This is a sharp change from the Sony of 2013. Game journalist Mike Futter observed that this stance is very different from the one Sony took with regard to sharing physical games. At that time, Sony had a lot to gain by dropping the mic in front of Microsoft, and spoke directly to fans with this cheeky video:
At the time, Microsoft was going for an always-online, all-digital game library that would allow people to lend games but was complicated by licensing. Now the tables have flipped – Microsoft is lagging hard in the race to sell consoles and has taken an open, gamer focused stance, while Sony is continuing to ride on this stodgy, confused messaging that tells gamers “we care about you, but only after our shareholders are happy.”
Fortnite, however, is in a place to force this issue. If Epic Games keeps pushing, Sony will have to respond. The part we’re most worried about is the “solution which will be understood and accepted by our gaming community” statement. That’s not terribly encouraging. That suggests that they’re not just going to open things up like Microsoft and Nintendo seem to have done, but come up with some complicated solution that lets them compromise with gamers without having to apologize to shareholders. I just hope Sony doesn’t underestimate how savvy gamers are about this kind of thing.
How long do you think Sony can hold out?