Sony has extended cross-play functionality to all developers with multiplayer titles on the PlayStation 4, according to a Wired interview with Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan. Developers will still have to implement support for cross-play themselves, but theoretically at least, any game that exists on multiple platforms should now be able to share online multiplayer between those platforms. Destiny 2 players on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, for instance, could finally go head to head in the Crucible, should Bungie decide to implement it.
The announcement, made as a quiet footnote in the interview instead of, say, as a major headline on the Official PlayStation Blog, does not come directly from Ryan, but rather as part of Wired author Peter Rubin’s exposition. “While it’s not announcing the news explicitly,” Rubin says, “the PS4’s cross-play efforts have officially moved out of the beta stage, meaning that the console can support cross-play on any titles that studios provide the functionality for. This month’s Modern Warfare may be the first major title to take advantage of it at launch.”
Sony hasn’t mobilized to say that Rubin’s assertion is incorrect, which it assuredly would if it weren’t actually offering universal access to cross-play tech, so it Seems Legit™. Until now, cross-play functionality has been the semi-exclusive purview of major multiplayer juggernauts like Fortnite and Rocket League, and even in those cases, getting Sony to relent was a herculean effort.
Fortnite was the first to go cross-play back in September of last year, which studies have shown was over 300 years ago. In the announcement, which was made after prolonged outcry from the greater Fortnite community, then-CEO John Kodera said that Sony “completed a thorough analysis of the business mechanics” required to allow cross-play, conceding that “cross-platform experiences add significant value to players.”
Kodera became “Deputy President” last April, when Ryan stepped into the shoes of the full presidency. At the time, Sony CEO/President Kenichiro Yoshida said that Ryan would handle all things Sony Interactive Entertainment, while Kodera would focus specifically on the PlayStation Network. It’s unclear if this top-level restructuring had anything to do with the decision to open cross-play up to everyone, rather than an elite few. To his credit, Kodera did say in the original announcement that Sony would “look to open up the platform” at some point in the future.
As was mentioned earlier, developers will have to make some magic happen on the server side of things before PlayStation folk can start matching up with Xbox folk. Plus, each developer will have to make the call to enable cross-play on its own. Respawn Entertainment, for instance, just introduced a new global leaderboard system for Apex Legends, which divides players into three distinct boards for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. If Respawn were to enable cross-play in Apex Legends, it might have to rework the guts of its leaderboard algorithms to handle the change, and who knows how much that could cost. Billions of dollars??
Then again, Epic enabled cross-play on accident that one time, so maybe it’s not that hard after all.