Sony’s excuse for not supporting cross-play is flawed

Sony has been catching a lot of flack this week for their stance against allowing PS4 players to play online with Xbox One and Nintendo Switch owners. If you haven’t already heard, both Minecraft and Rocket League will let Switch, Xbox and PC players play together online.

PlayStation’s official reason why they don’t support this? When asked by Eurogamer about it, Sony’s Jim Ryan had this to say:

Yeah. We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft – the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it’s all ages but it’s also very young. We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it’s something we have to think about very carefully.

I sorta understand that. They can discipline bad behavior on PSN, like if someone harasses young players in Minecraft or in any other game. If an Xbox Live or Nintendo Switch player is being a troll, Sony can’t protect the PS4 player in any substantial way.

This defense though quickly unravels in my opinion though. Either way, players across platforms will not be able to message each other or spew hateful insults at each other. They could send mean messages in-game, like in Rocket League, but they’d be limited in what they could say and that’s something the developer is supposed to police.

Sony could pass the burden of policing cross-platform online games like Rocket League onto developers, like Psyonix in this case. I’m sure that’s what Microsoft and Nintendo are willing to risk.

Of course, Microsoft and Nintendo are trying to catch up to Sony’s PS4 console in terms of commercial success so it makes sense why they’d take that risk. Microsoft’s Xbox One is being outsold 2 to 1 by the PS4 (some places 3 to 1 or more) and Nintendo knows their platforms aren’t known for having very good online features. Being able to play major games like Minecraft and Rocket League against your friends on Xbox Live is a huge boon for Nintendo. A game might not have a large install base on Switch but if it can play against PC and Xbox players that won’t matter.

You’ve probably already seen countless “4theplayers” memes and posts making fun of Sony’s anti-cross play stance. They say they are open to it but that they aren’t discussing it with publishers and developers right now. So for now, the company is adding another big entry to their list of most wanted PS4 features. They gave us USB HDD support earlier this year but items like PSN ID changes, native backwards compatibility for any older PS console, and now cross platform play are starting to stockpile for Sony.

I don’t buy Ryan’s excuse myself. Sure, they would leave themselves open to trolls from other networks and there younger users would be vulnerable in ways that Sony could not protect them from. But these younger users already can experience trolls and harassment on PSN and since cross-platform players would not necessarily have a way to communicate through text or voice in all cross play games I can’t see how much work Sony would really have to do to enable this. They should simply leave it up to the developer to police any cross platform messaging/voice chat, not shut out the idea of cross play altogether.