Much ado has been made over the cross-platform possibilities, now that games like Minecraft and Rocket League are opening up. The barriers are being broken down between the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC versions of such games, allowing people to cooperate and all play together. People keep looking at Sony like some sort of bad guy. Why? Because it isn’t taking the walls down to letting more people into its ecosystem too.
But does Sony really need to play nice? I mean sure, cross-platform would be nice. Of course people want to play with other people without having to buy another console and version of the game. But that isn’t smart or profitable for Sony and frankly, the company is in a position where it can say no. It doesn’t need to bow down to other people’s desires or cave in to peer pressure to survive.
The PlayStation 4 is the most popular and best selling console on the market. We know that over 58 million of the systems have been sold as of April 2017. Xbox One updates don’t come as regularly, but has sold over 29 million units. The Switch, the baby of the bunch, has passed five million in sales. Do you see the difference there? A game like Minecraft or Rocket League needs cross-platform play on either of those other two consoles. Rocket League, being a multiplayer game, needs that combined Xbox One, Switch, and PC audience to be viable. One could even argue that for Minecraft.
But the PlayStation 4 doesn’t have that need. It has over 58 million sales already. Rocket League was even given away as a PlayStation Plus game, increasing its userbase on that platform. When people with the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Vita kick in a few bucks, the PlayStation 4 version of Minecraft becomes a cross-play game. Sony doesn’t need to help Microsoft or Psyonix sell copies of their games. Its system is doing well enough and boasting large enough audiences to give people who have them enough. There’s no sense enabling cross-platform play to fill someone else’s pockets.
Console sales aren’t enough to back up my assertion that the PlayStation 4 is fine without cross-platform play. But subscriptions and active user numbers do. Back in May 2017, Sony said it had over 26 million people subscribed to PlayStation Plus, which means they could play online with other people, and 70 million active users on the PlayStation Network. To compare, Microsoft reported 55 million active Xbox Live users in January 2017 and didn’t offer the number of Xbox Live Gold subscribers who can play online. There is a wider audience to tap into. More people are actively enjoying games. This means there is no need to invite more people in.
Besides, it isn’t like Sony hasn’t done cross-platform play before. The PlayStation 3 had that feature with Portal 2, allowing people to play multiplayer games with the Windows and Mac versions of the games. The PlayStation 4 version of Street Fighter V lets people play with those on PC. It does happen. But it seems like Sony allows it when there is actual value and purpose there. I mean, the PlayStation 4 and PC audiences are huge. So when allowing those two to interact, it feels like it makes more sense. There’s a real chance for an either/or situation there. But when it comes to the Xbox One or Nintendo Switch, there isn’t that same situation. The audiences for those systems are smaller.
If it were to allow cross-platform, Sony is almost saying it is okay if someone plays on another console. It’s not the same as condoning PC and PlayStation 4 cross-platform play. The PlayStation 4 is the best selling console with the most users. It doesn’t need to make such desperate scrambles to seem appealing and entice people to come play. People are already playing there. It is only other less popular and successful systems need to take such action to survive and thrive.