Yesterday, Microsoft made an interesting announcement in regards to Minecraft. After muting the idea of cross-play for the longest time, the Redmond giant has decided to bring all the non-Java versions of its Minecraft users into one harmonious arena. From Android to Nintendo Switch, users will now be able to share worlds, experiences and play seamlessly across consoles. All except for PlayStation 4 users, who awkwardly won’t be part of the party.
The early suggestions seem to be that Sony themselves nixed the idea. The decision was made internally not to allow the venture to reach their users – crushing those gamers who had hoped to be apart of a larger community. Given how open Sony have been in the past to cross play and, given how important community is to Minecraft, it leaves that version of the game feeling incredibly lacking.
There are many reasons why Sony might have opted out of the process. One of the major ones I’ve heard is that this cross-play will require users to sign into Xbox Live accounts – something you’ll never see on Sony’s hallowed console. To allow such a thing would be tantamount to high treason among the platforms biggest fans. Another reason is that Sony isn’t willing to allow third party’s access to its backend. Given the infamous PSN hack a few years back, the company might feel that allowing Microsoft into their service would backfire from a security aspect.
But this raises an interesting question – why were Sony so keen on cross-play not 12 months ago? When Rocket League’s creators floated the idea, Sony were very clear in their desire to make it happen – if the right arrangement could be reached. Yet here we are in the shadow of Microsoft’s E3, and Sony is the odd duck out. Their version of Minecraft now becomes infinitely less appealing; as gamers on PS4 are unable to access one of the biggest features of the game.
It also adds to an awkward trend Sony has been creating recently. It’s well noted that Sony passed over EA Pass a few years back. Yet that service has really become an impressive beast to all to itself in the last 12 months. Sony’s stance at the time was that PSN offered better value for money, but it’s an option taken out of gamers hands – there’s no decision to be made for consumers because Sony has already made it for them. It’s PSN or nothing.
If I were a PlayStation 4 user of Minecraft, I’d be somewhat annoyed at Sony. The decision makes that product less valuable and almost instantly takes away from its appeal. It’s not even as if Sony haven’t allowed cross-play before. Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV plays nicely with PC users – as do several other titles. It seems more like an act of stubborn bravado than a decision made on real merit.
Perhaps even more amusing, Nintendo, typically the most stubborn of partners when it comes to co-operation, have agreed to allow Minecraft users in on the party. It’s a bizarre role reversal by the two company’s; with Nintendo showcasing an incredible forward thinking attitude. It makes the Nintendo Switch version of their game all the more appealing; and is another positive for Nintendo’s Switch. It also really makes Sony look out of touch; awkwardly putting their comments in 2016 to shame.
For a platform which claims to be “for the gamers”, it’s a stance that awkwardly opposes that. It showcases the problem with a market leader unwilling to make decisions in the best interest of gamers. Over 60 million PlayStation 4 consoles are in the wild, there’s potential for huge cross-play – but it’s never to be realized.
Cross-Play is a feature much desired but rarely implemented. It’s the one feature I suspect many gamers would jump at if offered in AAA-titles. The likes of FIFA, Madden, DIRT 4, Rocket League and many others would benefit from the added community. It would help prolong the life cycle of titles that have online communities which fade off quickly.
Microsoft may not have the best track record, but the decision to create a seamless experience across platforms is one all gamers can get behind. Even Nintendo see’s the value in such a move.
It’s just a shame that Sony don’t want their users to have that experience.