During this past E3 Sony came under a lot of fire for being the lone major holdout against cross-platform play. Psyonix's Rocket League and Microsoft's Minecraft will be pooling their respective users across multiple gaming platforms, including Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. It's a major move that looks to bring together a ton of different players for the first time, uniting them and building a user base that eschews the traditional boundaries that keep console ecosystems separate from one another. A major move that, for now, won't be including Sony and its PlayStation brand.
By Robert Marrujo:: Eurogamer posted a very, very fascinating interview with PlayStation global sales and marketing head Jim Ryan. You can read the exchange in its entirety here, but we've highlighted a couple of the more salient points below.
Eurogamer: Well, you must see that PlayStation owners are upset. They want to play with Switch owners, PC owners and Xbox One owners for these two big and important games, and they don't have an explanation for why. That's what I'm getting at, really.
Jim Ryan: Yeah. We've got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft - the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it's all ages but it's also very young. 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. 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.
Eurogamer: It doesn't seem to be a problem for Nintendo, perhaps the most mindful video game company of the protection of children.
Jim Ryan: Yeah, that's true. Everybody has to take their own decisions. We'll do that. Like I say, we have no philosophical stance against cross-play at all.
Eurogamer: Is this a done deal? Or are you leaving the door open, perhaps?
Jim Ryan: I don't think anything is ever a done deal. Anybody who is dogmatic in that manner is typically a fool. That said, to my knowledge, there is no live conversation ongoing at the moment.
Kudos to Eurogamer for being so straight to the point with their questions. Sony really took one on the chin with this interview, but that caveat at the end about leaving the door open apparently wasn't all talk, as it has been popping up in the news as of late. At this year's Gamescom Game Reactor caught up with Aaron Greensburg, the Head of Marketing for Xbox, who confirmed that they are in the middle of talks with Sony about finally getting the ball rolling on Minecraft cross-play.
Greensburg was quoted as saying "we would like to enable [Sony] to be part of that; one community, to unite gamers. So we're talking to them and we're hopeful that they'll be supportive of it." It's good news for fans who are eager to play Minecraft with friends and family who own the game on different platforms, but the fact that Sony is dragging its feet on this issue is highly disconcerting.
On one level it's easy to see why Sony would be reluctant. After all, it's currently sitting at number one in this current generation of the console wars, so why fraternize with the enemy when Sony is already winning? Taking the broader picture into consideration, however, it becomes clear that Sony's obstinance might come back to bite it in the end. For starters, Microsoft doesn't have to share Minecraft with anyone it doesn't want to. After purchasing Minecraft creator Mojang along with the game's copyright, Microsoft is essentially playing nice with everyone by allowing competitors to run the software on their hardware.
Granted, it's not likely that Microsoft's intentions are entirely altruistic. After all, Minecraft was deeply entrenched as a multiplatform experience prior to the Mojang purchase, so it would've been a real pain to suddenly funnel all of those users onto Microsoft hardware exclusively. Still, if Sony keeps being bullish about opening up to cross-play, who's to say that in the long run PlayStation isn't cut off from further Minecraft support? Furthermore, allowing users on different platforms to connect has a high chance of being a boon to everyone involved via some potential cross pollination.
Honestly, I don't know if console manufacturers can afford to avoid cross-play in this day and age. So-called experts keep declaring that the home video game system is on its way out, despite the successes of PS4 and Xbox One blowing that prediction out of the water. While I have some strong reservations against that particular proclamation, I do think that the future of gaming is enshrouded in mystery at this point. Smart devices are only going to keep getting stronger. A few years down the line we might all have phones and tablets that are on equal footing with the horsepower of a video game console or high-end PC; what will be the point of any sort of focused, dedicated gaming device when a multimedia conduit is right in our pockets?
"Well smartphones have cameras but photographers still by Nikons!" some of you might be shouting as you read this. I agree. Again, I'm not a prognosticator of doom when it comes to video game consoles. I genuinely believe that there are gaming experiences only a dedicated system can provide. I do feel, though, that it's best to err on the side of caution. Sony and Microsoft might not get such a warm reception when the proper followups to this generation of systems are released. The more company's like Sony that want to cling to the old ways of gaming, the sooner they might find themselves out in the cold. At the end of the day, gaming is about having fun, and drawing lines in the sand is anything but.
About Robert Marrujo: A Senior Editor for Nintendojo.com and an Editor for San Leandro News. A lifelong Bay Area resident, you can usually find him puttering around writing, drawing, or playing video games. Check him out on Instagram @robert_marrujo!