At Microsoft’s E3 conference, a great announcement was the reveal that the ever popular Minecraft was getting cross-platform play between systems with its Better Together Update. Xbox One, PC, mobile and even Switch players could play together on the new dedicated servers. Noticeably missing from that list was Microsoft’s big competition in the console space – Sony.
After the press conference, the news broke that Sony would not be sharing in online Minecraft. The reason PlayStation was not included in the cross-platform play was due to Sony refusing to be involved. This was met with expected backlash as many wanted cross-network play between platforms. On the E3 press trail, Sony finally gave what was a baffling reason: they were thinking about the children.
Talking to Eurogamer, Sony’s Jim Ryan once again became the figurehead for fan outrage. Ryan first started off by deflecting the question noting how it was between Sony and relevant parties. He made sure to say that they were not against the feature however. After a follow-up question, Ryan decided to give a bit more detail about the dangers of cross-platform play.
“We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base,” Ryan said. He focused squarely on Minecraft which was the big cross-play reveal and its popularity across generations. Then he dropped the golden nugget. “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.”
What Ryan is effectively saying is that allowing cross-play could lead to the possible harm of children. If those Xbox or Switch players got in, there would be anarchy. It is so surprising to hear this kind of response from Sony of all companies. If this was Nintendo it would be par for the course. They have always made decisions with regards to online around the protection of their younger user base. It is why the online functionality on the Switch still feels dated. Yet, they are willing to work alongside Microsoft for the better experience of all players. It is quite the role reversal as most of this E3 has been.
Another game announced to have cross-platform play was the popular Rocket League. Announced at Nintendo Spotlight, developer Psyonix confirmed not only a Switch release of the game but that it would include the feature. Once again, the news broke quickly after that Sony was not on the list out of their own accord. Polygon asked Psyonix about the difficulty of implementing cross-platform play. As it turns out, it is not that difficult as the developer said “It’s literally something we could do with the push of a button, metaphorically.”
For Sony, the real reasoning is likely that they don’t feel they need to add it. Sony is far and away the most popular console manufacturer in the market. The PlayStation 4 is outselling the competition by a huge margin. Cross-platform play might lead to a knock to some sales. Players try to go to the platform with the bigger user-base.
It is not that Sony has not had cross-platform play before however. Street Fighter V itself featured cross-platform play between the PC and PS4 players. Even Rocket League mentioned above allows Steam and PS4 players to play against one another. The PC seemed fair enough for Sony to work with, but the moment it was not a console exclusive they were not willing to play ball.
There has (as expected) been a big backlash from fans over all consoles. Sony’s reluctance comes from the position of being on top and turning away from what fans want. Cross-platform play is an amazing feature and something that has been celebrated for both Nintendo and Microsoft.
Eurogamer finally asked if there might be a change following the response from fans in the last few days. Ryan denied it saying no conversations were going on. So Sony will be their sticking to their guns on this it seems. This is something that will be one of the big takeaways after Sony’s decent E3 showing. They didn’t steal the show and this has been the big talking point in terms of their E3 presence.
But at least Jim Ryan is thinking about the children!