It all began when Microsoft’s indie developer director Chris Charla said that the US company was “enabling developers to support cross-network play”, in theory allowing players of Xbox One games to play people on other online multiplayer networks, supposedly including Sony’s PlayStation Network.
This was no doubt great news for many gamers, and mainly Xbox One owners longing to play online multiplayer games with their PS4-owning friends, which likely are the majority given the PS4’s huge user base of 36 million units.
And now Shuhei Yoshida, who is president of Sony Computer Entertainment’s worldwide studios, has told Eurogamer that connecting the Xbox Live and PlayStation Networks would be a doodle, technically speaking, at least. This is a bit surprising considering that the PS4 has superior hardware overall, meaning that compromises would have to be made in order for Xbox One and PS4 players to play together.
Yoshida also highlighted Sony’s history of allowing cross-platform play. For instance, Street Fighter 5 allows cross-platform play between PS4 and PC, and other games like 2011’s Portal 2 allowed cross-platform play between the old PS3 and the PC.
But Yoshida stated that Sony would also “have to look at policy issues and business issues”, though. And here lies the big stumbling block in my opinion, as this is clearly not about how much of a technical challenge connecting the PS4 and Xbox One online multiplayer networks is, but whether this makes sense for Sony from a business perspective.
Because the truth is that, from a business perspective at least, it makes no sense for Sony to allow PS4 and Xbox One cross-platform play. After all, the PS4 has a big lead in sales which is likely to keep growing, as people are more likely to buy the same console their friends own, namely the PS4.
This is in no small part so that they can play multiplayer titles like Star Wars Battlefront online with their colleagues and friends. But if Xbox One players could all of a sudden join PS4 gamers on Sony’s PlayStation Network, things would change dramatically, making the decision of whether to buy a PS4 and Xbox One less of an issue.
So clearly Yoshida has answered Microsoft’s offer in part out of courtesy, and in order for his company not to look like a villainous corporation that’s against Xbox One and PS4 owners playing happily together. Although from a business perspective it’s clearly in Sony’s interests that this doesn’t happen any time soon, sadly meaning that it’s unlikely we’ll ever see PS4 and Xbox One cross-platform play this console generation.