Sunday, July 22News That Matters

Fortnite: Battle Royale's Cross-Play Makes Microsoft And Sony's Feud Look Silly


Credit: Epic Games

When Fortnite: Battle Royale hits mobile platforms, it will do so with one of the more ambitious cross-play programs in the industry today. There will be some restrictions, but the long and short of it is that players on iOS, Android, PC and PS4 will be able to play together. At the same time, players on iOS, Android, PC and Xbox One will be able to play together. Why the two lists, you ask? Because there’s a strange, artificial wall set up between two of these platforms: Xbox One and PS4. Like there always is.

Cross-play has been an industry point of contention ever since Microsoft threw a gauntlet down by suggesting that the company would be open to letting its own Xbox Live players play nice with Sony’s PSN players: traditionally the two have been kept separate, but a big part of this is just business. Sony’s much larger install base with PS4 becomes a huge competitive advantage without cross-play because anyone who wants to play with PS4-owning friends also needs to buy a PS4. In recent years Microsoft — which of course, also makes Windows — has been more open, allowing cross-play with PC, as well as Switch on some titles, as well as being clear that it would also allow cross-play with Sony. Microsoft has a lot to gain and less to lose by letting PS4 players play with Xbox One players, and so it’s been publicly supportive of the idea.

Which makes this recent episode with Fortnite all the more illustrative of just what’s going on here. Cross-play should clearly be possible from a technical perspective, something developers have talked about before: similar control schemes mean that Xbox One/PS4 cross-play doesn’t even have any of the balance issues we see with mobile and PC. And yet we keep kicking the can down the road: Sony at one point suggested that security was part of the decision, which felt like misdirection. Surely if the notoriously cautious Nintendo can get behind cross-play, so can Sony.

Fortnite has been here before, when a bug made it so that Xbox One and PS4 players could briefly play together in a utopian vision of a cross-play future. Or was it a bug? Was that maybe Epic throwing shade at console protectionism by slyly demonstrating just how easy this would be from a technical perspective? It’s not impossible, though of course we’ll never know for sure. It would certainly be in line with what Epic articulated as its vision for games in the announcement of mobile version:

“We believe this is the future of games. The same game on all platforms. Console quality graphics and action. Play when you want, where you want.”

We remember that as the makers of Unreal Engine, Epic’s vision is about a lot more than just this one game.

Cross-play with Fortnite will soon constitute a fun party where everyone’s hanging out except for two attendees that have a grudge against each other. But this might be how we finally achieve that long-dreamed of goal: by circling the Xbox and PlayStation with other platforms until they’re forced to shake hands and make nice.

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Credit: Epic Games

When Fortnite: Battle Royale hits mobile platforms, it will do so with one of the more ambitious cross-play programs in the industry today. There will be some restrictions, but the long and short of it is that players on iOS, Android, PC and PS4 will be able to play together. At the same time, players on iOS, Android, PC and Xbox One will be able to play together. Why the two lists, you ask? Because there’s a strange, artificial wall set up between two of these platforms: Xbox One and PS4. Like there always is.

Cross-play has been an industry point of contention ever since Microsoft threw a gauntlet down by suggesting that the company would be open to letting its own Xbox Live players play nice with Sony’s PSN players: traditionally the two have been kept separate, but a big part of this is just business. Sony’s much larger install base with PS4 becomes a huge competitive advantage without cross-play because anyone who wants to play with PS4-owning friends also needs to buy a PS4. In recent years Microsoft — which of course, also makes Windows — has been more open, allowing cross-play with PC, as well as Switch on some titles, as well as being clear that it would also allow cross-play with Sony. Microsoft has a lot to gain and less to lose by letting PS4 players play with Xbox One players, and so it’s been publicly supportive of the idea.

Which makes this recent episode with Fortnite all the more illustrative of just what’s going on here. Cross-play should clearly be possible from a technical perspective, something developers have talked about before: similar control schemes mean that Xbox One/PS4 cross-play doesn’t even have any of the balance issues we see with mobile and PC. And yet we keep kicking the can down the road: Sony at one point suggested that security was part of the decision, which felt like misdirection. Surely if the notoriously cautious Nintendo can get behind cross-play, so can Sony.

Fortnite has been here before, when a bug made it so that Xbox One and PS4 players could briefly play together in a utopian vision of a cross-play future. Or was it a bug? Was that maybe Epic throwing shade at console protectionism by slyly demonstrating just how easy this would be from a technical perspective? It’s not impossible, though of course we’ll never know for sure. It would certainly be in line with what Epic articulated as its vision for games in the announcement of mobile version:

“We believe this is the future of games. The same game on all platforms. Console quality graphics and action. Play when you want, where you want.”

We remember that as the makers of Unreal Engine, Epic’s vision is about a lot more than just this one game.

Cross-play with Fortnite will soon constitute a fun party where everyone’s hanging out except for two attendees that have a grudge against each other. But this might be how we finally achieve that long-dreamed of goal: by circling the Xbox and PlayStation with other platforms until they’re forced to shake hands and make nice.

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