PlayStation chief on why Sony took so long to enable console cross-play

On Tuesday, Sony finally announced – and enabled – console cross-play for PlayStation 4 with the launch of a beta test for Fortnite, caving in to fan pressure and negative press that had ramped up over the course of a year.

The pressure spiked with the launch of battle royale phenomenon Fortnite on the Nintendo Switch, and the revelation that you weren’t able to use your existing Fortnite account on Nintendo’s console if you had already used it on PS4.

That was back in June, but in truth the calls for Sony to enable console cross-play, as Microsoft and Nintendo had done, began long before then. So, what took Sony so long? It’s a question PlayStation Worldwide Studios boss Shawn Layden addressed on the PlayStation Blogcast episode 308.

Layden began by outlining the challenges Sony faced in enabling cross-play, pointing to technical, business and customer service issues the company had to sort out.

“We know this is a want, this is a desire, and we want to be able to deliver that in the best way possible,” he said. “Now, enabling cross-play isn’t just about flipping a switch and ‘there you go’. It’s a very multi-dimensional kind of attribute or feature.

“So we had to look at it from a technical point of view, we have to work with our partners from a business point of view, we have to make sure that if we enable this, do we have the right customer service support, do we have the right messaging out there, do we have all these different things that you have to get in line. It’s rather ordinal – they have to go in a certain order to get them all set up.”

(Of course, for Epic at least, enabling Fortnite console cross-play was as simple as flipping a switch, so simple in fact that the developer accidentally let PS4 and Xbox One owners play together a year ago.)

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Layden admitted it had taken longer for Sony to enable console cross-play than he would have liked.

“That’s why, though it’s taken us longer certainly than even I would have wanted, but it took as long as it was going to take to get it ready and get it done, which is why we’re able to not only to announce it on this past Tuesday, but also enable it at the same time.”

PS4 cross-play has been live in Fortnite for a few days, and, according to Layden, “so far, so good.”

“I haven’t heard any feedback about disruptions. It’s a beta test, so we expect maybe there will be some hiccups along the way. But we’ll watch that carefully. We’re just delighted people are out there getting what they want and not tweeting me so much.”

The next obvious question is, which games are coming next to PS4 console cross-play? This was a question Emma asked in her feature, Sony has caved on Fortnite console cross-play – now what? One game we know won’t have console cross-play is Bethesda’s multiplayer-focused Fallout 76. But could Psyonix’s Rocket League or even Microsoft’s own Minecraft be next?

Layden kept his cards close to his chest:

“Right now we’re in a beta test program,” he said. “I think that certainly once we can prove that this is all holding together, sturdy, and well, I would anticipate seeing other games in the [cross-play] service over time.”

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