Sony is currently the best selling console this generation, selling roughly 76 million units as of April this year. This puts Sony in the superior position, allowing the company the luxury of maintaining and keeping unpopular policies such as not being able to play across platforms in third-party titles. When you are at the top, there is very little reason to change unless your position is threatened. Thankfully, Microsoft and Nintendo have both seized on this folly by Sony and have opted to market this inability of PlayStation by focusing on the ability of the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch to play across platforms for Minecraft. But for Sony to change their rule, especially when at the top of the market, it’s going to take Microsoft and Nintendo far more to change Sony’s mind—and they should.
The Issue and Why
The problem surrounding Sony is two-fold. The first is that Sony simply doesn’t allow third-party titles to interact with each other on different platforms. If you are playing Rocket League on your PlayStation 4, you can’t play with people on Nintendo Switch or Xbox One. The other issue surrounding Sony’s inability to allow players to interact with those on other platforms is that it goes so far as to restrict their accounts to only PlayStation 4. In the case of Fortnite, with Sony’s rigid rules, require that Epic Games—the creators of Fortnite—restrict player’s accounts to PSN if they have ever played on a PlayStation 4 and can’t be used on a different platform.
On the surface, this may seem somewhat of a non-issue, after all this has been the gold standard for consoles since their inception. If you were playing Call of Duty on an Xbox 360, you couldn’t play Call of Duty with someone on a PlayStation 3. However, that was then and this is now, times have changed and the console marketplace has become more open than it ever has before. Keeping to the same old tradition of barring players off is no longer acceptable in the modern console generation, but again, if you are the leading company, there is little reason to change unless you are threatened; in Sony’s case right before, there wasn’t one.
We as consumers should always promote a more open environment when it comes to games and playing together, but as an individual, it can be difficult to enact this change with little options available. Thankfully with Microsoft and Nintendo becoming unlikely allies and now championing this feature, in spite of Sony, there is a new sense of pressure for Sony to change.
A Match Made In Spite and Marketability
Many may see Microsoft and Nintendo as competition, and in-part, they are correct. They both create games and consoles and wish to sell them to consumers, but there are two distinct differences when compared to Sony. For Microsoft and Nintendo, both have sold fewer consoles in comparison to Sony, meaning there is a lot more room for growth and are willing to try different things. Additionally, they may both be a part of the same market, but they are not directly competing because both companies target different consumers and don’t view the landscape as a zero-sum game.
Regardless of the true reasoning, Microsoft and Nintendo don’t see each other as threats because they are both offering different enough products and don’t see a consumer on one platform a loss for another. This is especially true for Microsoft, who has recently redefined what they see as an Xbox customer,
The definition of what constitutes an Xbox customer simply used to be someone who owned an Xbox. But with Microsoft’s expansion and shift in the platform and brand, it has come to mean anyone who at some point has logged in, purchased, or interacted with a Microsoft platform that is focused on gaming as an ‘Xbox customer’. If you play Minecraft on your Nintendo Switch, you’re an ‘Xbox customer’. If you used Microsoft’s Mixer streaming platform, you’re an ‘Xbox customer’. If you end up playing a game made from Microsoft’s new cloud division in the future, you will most likely be an ‘Xbox customer.’
For Nintendo, their concept of a Nintendo customer isn’t exactly known, but at the very least it doesn’t conflict with Microsofts. In both cases, there is still a reason to buy an Xbox One if you own a Switch, and there is still a reason to buy a Switch if you own an Xbox One.
This openness to third-party games across platforms is a benefit to both companies and consumers and should continue promoting this fact. Microsoft and Nintendo are able to promote a feature that both support without risking their consumers from one to another, while players benefit by gaining more consumer-friendly features. It is the perfect storm for consumers to exude pressure on Sony to abandon their practice of restricting third-party titles to only PSN players.
Both companies benefit by showing an additional feature for their platform, Sony is hopefully pushed into abandoning its antiquated practice, and consumers hopefully win in the end by being able to play across all platforms. With Sony at the top of this console generation, the payoff is unlikely anytime soon, but with Microsoft and Nintendo continuing to bring up this point and players responding to this new feature, comes the PlayStation 5, we might be removing one more console barrier for the future to come.