Cross-play was just brought to Minecraft via the recent release of the ‘Better Together’ update. Now, Minecraft fans on Xbox One, Windows 10 and mobile can all play under the same virtual roof. Switch users will be able to join in on the party in a few months too. What about PS4 players? Well, Sony is keeping them in a closed pen all by themselves, refusing to share with Xbox One and Switch. The question is—why?
This is a topic that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, but I’m only getting around to it now because of the aforementioned Minecraft update and also because of an article I recently saw on Forbes. The article talked about how the chances of Sony allowing cross-play are incredibly slim all because of one thing: the PS4 is the market leader. The point the author brought up was that since the PS4 is currently the king of the hill, Sony wants to keep its install base in a closed environment away from the other platforms. By doing that, the friends of PS4 owners would be swayed to also pick up PS4s for themselves in order to play together.
I honestly never thought of it that way; I was definitely taken aback when I read those words in that article. It almost pains me to agree that strategy actually does make sense from a business perspective. Since Sony is on top, it doesn’t have to try to perform any large maneuvers in order to win over the masses, unlike Microsoft and Nintendo who are trying to grab attention in their own ways.
Even so, I still don’t think it’s right for Sony to keep PS4 players closed off. While it may benefit the company from a business standpoint, the individual circumstances of consumers need to be taken into consideration. On that note, here’s my main argument against Sony’s current stance: Not everyone can own/wants to own a PS4.
The PS4 is the market leader, but not everyone owns one or wants to.
The whole point of having multiple console manufacturers is to appeal to a wide audience. Everyone has different tastes, so there are different platforms to appeal to that variety. While there will always be the ‘most popular’ brand, that doesn’t mean the others won’t be cared about. The PS4 is very much ahead of the other systems, but there are still millions of players on those other platforms. The Xbox One family is unofficially in the realm of 30ish million while the newborn Switch is expected to be in the range of 5 million at this point. So, there are approximately 35+ million non-PS4 systems out in the wild right now, and that number will only keep growing. That number most definitely consists of folks who happen to own multiple systems, perhaps one of them also being a PS4, but there’s no way to tell exactly how much. Even so, whether Sony likes it or not, the PS4 is not the only console in the world. With that said, the group I want to focus on is the single console owners.
Some think that gamers who only own one system are just overzealous fanboys who wouldn’t touch an ‘opposing’ system with a 10ft pole. While there are some extremists out there, that usually isn’t the case. The majority of folks who own a single system usually do so because that’s all they can afford. Gaming is expensive: it always has been and most likely always will be. As a result, quite a number of people can barely afford to invest in the hobby. It takes a lot to own more than one system, so that’s why there are gamers who simply settle for one. It’s not uncommon for these single-system gamers to have friends that are on other platforms. This is where cross-play becomes super beneficial.
Connecting gamers across platforms is a pretty amazing thing. It breaks down the walls between the systems and allows the gaming community as a whole to interact and share with each other despite not having the exact same hardware. If anything, it helps to put a damper on the already high amount of toxicity that exists between the more zealous members of the different fanbases. The icing on the cake is that it keeps the individual communities of the different games alive for a longer period of time.
Microsoft has given Minecraft’s lifespan a massive boost thanks to cross-platform support.
Up until now, Minecraft was massive entity that was fragmented across several different platforms. By combining the different platforms under one roof, Minecraft can now continue to thrive at an even greater rate and will likely exist for a far longer time. The bloodline of online-focused games such as this is the amount of active players. Since these players across different platforms are now sharing the same environment, the majority of the overall community would have to fall away in order for the game to be on the verge of closing. Considering the the amount of players that are spread across Minecraft’s range of supported platforms, it will surely take a very long time for something like that to even be a reality. Microsoft was smart to push for this move. Nintendo shocked all of us by actually agreeing to it. Sony is simply being a tad too arrogant in this case.
With the PS4 carrying the tagline “For the players”, you’d think something like this would be a no-brainer. But, if the theory that the Forbes author brought up is true, then I think that tagline should be changed to “for the money”. Cross-play makes things more convenient for everyone, but it seems Sony is more concerned about its bottom dollar. Seeing that it’s a for-profit company, this behaviour isn’t really surprising. Even so, that doesn’t make this decision any less selfish.
Microsoft could have only allowed for cross-platform play via the Xbox One and Windows 10 versions of Minecraft, but it decided to even go as far as to ask Nintendo about it. The Big N obliged. Why? Most likely because it realized that there will be gamers who only own one system and wanted to share Microsoft’s vision of making things convenient for everyone. If Sony’s ultimate goal is to coerce more people to buy PS4’s, then this isn’t the best way to go about doing it. While there are definitely some people who bought the system because all their friends did, there’s no doubt also a group of people who went against the grain and got what they really wanted. Ultimately, consumers will often put their money down on what they’re truly interested in. If Sony wants to generate more sales, then it should only be trying to do that by keeping the PS4’s game library healthy and active. With that said, I think the PlayStation team needs to learn how to play along with the other platforms. Otherwise, it’s only stifling the rest of the industry.