Back in June, Sony told Eurogamer that the company did not have “a profound philosophical stance” against letting PS4 users play games with those on other platforms. That said, the company’s continued refusal to allow for cross-console play between PS4 and Xbox One players has become an absolute and unmistakable trend in recent months.
The latest data point in that trend line is Ark: Survival Evolved, which comes out of a two-year early access period next week on Windows, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One. In a Twitter response posted over the weekend, Ark lead designer and programmer Jeremy Stieglitz said that cross-platform play between PS4 and Xbox One is “working internally, but currently Sony won’t allow it.”
This isn’t a huge surprise, considering that the developers of Rocket League, Minecraft, and Gwent have made similar statements in recent months. Since Microsoft very publicly opened Xbox Live to easy cross-platform play back in March, Sony has said that it’s “happy to have a conversation” about the issue, but it has failed to follow through by allowing any linkage between the two competing consoles (cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC has been available in certain games since the PS4’s launch, though).
What’s the problem, here?
The question continues to be why, exactly, Sony seems so reluctant to allow any games to work between its own PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live (the company has yet to respond to a request for comment from Ars). Speaking with Eurogamer in June, Sony’s Jim Ryan suggested that, in the case of Minecraft, Sony was wary to expose that game’s young players to “external influences we have no ability to manage or look after.” That excuse doesn’t really fly with Ark, though, which is a T-rated game with an older fan base.
Ryan also told Eurogamer that cross-platform decisions were “a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders.” That suggests there may be some financial issues between the parties involved that are preventing cross-console play from moving forward. Perhaps Sony wants someone else to pay for the work required to get its network talking to Microsoft’s?
The bottom line, though, might be that Sony just doesn’t want to partially give away its sizable advantage in console sales by letting Microsoft hook into that vast network of players. As we wrote back in March:
All things being equal, this console generation is much more likely to see a critical mass of your friends playing on Sony’s PlayStation Network rather than on Microsoft’s Xbox Live. If both online ecosystems are closed off from each other, more new console buyers are going to follow those friends to Sony’s console if they want to play online. But in the world of cross-platform play Microsoft is proposing, the Xbox One might suddenly get a second look—especially since the system will give you access to a new Halo in addition to letting you play Call of Duty and Madden with all your PS4-owning friends.
If Sony doesn’t want to let Xbox One players onto its network for competitive reasons, that’s a perfectly understandable business decision. If that’s the case, though, we wish the company would just come out and say it. Instead, Sony is attempting to walk a tightrope where it seems to be open to cross-console play in theory but completely opposed to it in practice.