I love it when a single issue gets so blown up, it stretches out over days, weeks, months, and even years. It gives me life essence, and by that I mean it makes my bank account happy. I especially love it when an issue blows up in like, a really big an exciting way, fueled more by interesting things happening, instead of people being increasingly angry about something. Even better is both, with some official source purposefully adding fuel to a fire, and the community feeding off of it.
Of course, I’m referring to the cross-play situation, which has been brewing since, at least, Rocket League, and has only grown stronger as Fortnite happened. Then, Nintendo and Microsoft got involved. Then Forntite got worse, causing a huge wave of drama during E3 2018. Then, even after that, Nintendo and Microsoft somehow managed to up the ante even further, just piling on and on while Sony has barely had a chance to respond.
Things got real ugly for Sony when Nintendo dropped Fortnite on the Switch, and the world really noticed the PS4’s restrictions for the first time. Everyone knew Sony-based Fortnite players couldn’t play with others outside of those on PCs, but the situation goes deeper than that. Turns out, even account progression is locked the second your Epic Games account touches a PS4. If you have a Switch, a good second console, in addition to a PS4, you can’t use the same account on both devices. Even if you disassociate the account from the PS4, your purchases are still locked. Most folks never really tried to carry things over between PS4 and Xbox, so when the more logically widespread attempts were made, the whole thing exploded. Sony responded with a pretty weak statement, but it was right in the middle of E3 and things almost blew over.
Then something else happened on an arguably larger scale. The new Minecraft update launched, introducing the “Bedrock” update that launched the new version of the game for the Switch, the one with cross-functionality with every version… except for the Sony platforms. Of course with the launch came a new advertisement, and it’s… far from subtle. At one point the screen transitions to half red and half green, with the companies’ respective logos. It’s a blatant “holy crap look at this thing you never thought would happen” moment, and one that is expertly timed to cause maximum PR damage to the missing party. Of course, it’s likely the ad was in production before E3, but the imagery is even more powerful a statement as a result.
It’s almost like the ultimate shots have been fired, and the Nintendo/Microsoft duo pulled a “Sega does what Nintendon’t” moment far removed from aggressive brand versus brand marketing. It feels like Sony, at this point, has no choice but to respond to the matter with much more care than before. A gallon of gasoline has been poured over the fire, and the gaming community, especially one that has been trained so well by marketing and PR to be ride or die with brand loyalty, isn’t going to let this just fade until the next gaming controversy. Sony might be forced to make a move, and at the very least offer a much more candid, transparent acknowledgement of the issue.
We live in a world that is increasingly intolerant of corporate politics, especially when they get in the way of modern conveniences. The demand for cross-platform play is higher than ever, and more and more publishers and developers are going to be asked about it whenever a new, multiplatform game comes out. Sony is going to be hounded by it over and over, and Nintendo and Microsoft will have further opportunities to be coy and/or smug. It’s a new selling point, one that’s just controversial enough to have an impact on reputations. So now, the only thing left to do is wait for Sony’s next move.