At E3 2017, apart from unveiling its upcoming Xbox One X console, Microsoft took a significant step in the direction of enabling cross-platform play on its platform. The company announced that it was bringing cross-play to Minecraft, allowing PC, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and mobile gamers to play together. It made a similar announcement regarding Rocket League earlier.
Sony has to be "mindful" of its responsibility to its install base... whatever that means.
One platform that was noticeably left out of both these announcements was Sony's PlayStation 4, which is still leading the race for most sales by volume amongst current-gen consoles. But why is Sony being left out when even Nintendo has agreed to join the party?
Apparently, Sony thinks that its player base won't be safe when "exposed" to an environment that it can't control. PlayStation global sales and marketing head Jim Ryan claims that Sony has to be "mindful of our responsibility to our install base".
I'll be blunt here: that's a ridiculous line of reasoning which has to do more with the company protecting and isolating its business, and less with player safety. Sony is fine with a toxic community in other games tied to its own console, but God forbid should gamers play Rocket League and Minecraft in meticulously curated environments.
Let me be clear here, every platform has its fair share of gamers and fanboys who are blatantly toxic, and only through proper moderation can unpleasant instances like Sony's Playroom be avoided. No platform is free from this epidemic, and claiming to reject a potentially game-changing capability based on this reason alone does nothing to counter the notion that Sony is focused more on its own interests rather than those of the gaming community at large.
No, this decision strictly has to do with Sony fearing that it would lose considerable business, because players might not buy its consoles if all games could be cross-played regardless of platform. Being the maker of the top-selling current-gen console, Sony obviously wants to avoid a situation like that. However, criticizing the competition by making ludicrous comments about their community through official channels isn't the way to go about it.
Toxic communities exist on every platform.
Gamers still buy the most popular console in order to play games with their friends, so it makes sense from a corporate perspective that Sony wants the trend to continue. But let's not forget, the only people who lose in this corporate battle are gamers, who eventually have to leave an otherwise enjoyable game, just because the player base is dying.
While Sony's fears might be justified, there's no denying the fact that this is turning out to be an ugly PR fiasco for the company, and one that could have been avoided with better communication. Now, the firm will certainly be hoping that the storm blows over, but it's unlikely that it will, given Microsoft's dedication to cross-platform play.
Sony's strategy isn't 'for the players' anymore.
Moving forward, Sony will have to allow cross-platform play before the situation gets uglier or it'll have to face the music and admit that it's not "for the players" anymore. A healthier battle can be fought against the competition by developing better first-party exclusives, which would be fair play in terms of enticing gamers to buy consoles. Until the company remedies the problem, Microsoft holds a trump card against Sony, one that it'll be sure to use at every possible opportunity given that it has nothing to lose and remains resolute in its plans to support developers to enable cross-network gameplay. Gaming has come to a crossroads; Microsoft has chosen the right stance for the gaming community, and Sony needs to do the same.
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