There appears to be a new oddball as console manufacturers scramble in this latest round of musical chairs for gamers affection. For the last four years, Microsoft and Nintendo have played second fiddle to Sony's well-deserved consumer admiration this console generation, with the former taking the brunt of criticism while the latter quietly retooled its strategy.
Nevertheless, consumer affection can be as fickle as the weather and it now seems Sony is bracing itself for a storm of angry tweets, forum posts and, scathing news articles as it continues to present a weak argument as to why it hasn't joined the cross play bandwagon that both Microsoft and Nintendo are now championing.
I’d love cross play with Destiny on PC, Xbox, PS. Would you? (Twitter poll)
— Mike Ybarra (@Qwik) June 14, 2018
Perhaps, seeing a competitive opening, Microsoft's executives are putting Sony's decision to task by highlighting the seemingly arbitrary and divisive stance the PS4 division is taking when it comes to cross play. According to an interview at Giant Bomb and reported GameIndustry.biz, Xbox head Phil Spencer allowing cross play is a good thing for both consumers and game developers:
"If you bought your son, your child, an Xbox, and I bought my child a PlayStation - and I'm just a parent, it's their birthday, whatever - and the kids want to go play Fortnite and they all of a sudden go home and can't play with each other... it doesn't feel like it helps the consumers," he said. "If it doesn't help the developers and it doesn't help the consumer, then it doesn't feel like it helps to grow gaming to me."
Admittedly, head of Xbox Phil Spencer understands the business behind Sony wanting to keep it console proposition number one in consumers minds as it's clearly run away with the gaming market this generation:
"I get the business side of it, and I'm not going to judge anybody else making their decisions because they've got to run their business... Our goal is to be relevant and important to every gamer on the planet. If people want to go buy someone else's console and play games there, great, as long as we're all leaning in to how do we make this business for everybody as vibrant as possible."
While business barbs such as these are expected from its competitor in Xbox, unfortunately, Microsoft isn't the only company throwing shade Sony's way as Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime chimed in with its diplomatic criticisms:
"You have companies like mine that encourage cross-play and enable cross-play. You have a developer and content owner that wants cross-play and is encouraging cross-play, and then you have the other platform holders and what it is that they do."
Cross Play has been a topic Microsoft has brought up in the recent past with games such as Rocket League and Minecraft, and Sony was able to relatively deflect consumer angst over its decision to not support the feature on the PS4 versions of these games. However, as long as Fortnite continues to pull in the game audience it has been over the past few months, Sony will seemingly have to weather this barrage of Cross Play talking points and feedback from upset consumers.
What confounds the issue for Sony right now and puts a much-needed check in the win column for Microsoft, is that Fortnite is not only a really popular game on PS4 and Xbox, but has garnered an audience on iOS devices and looks to continue its expansion to Android smartphones and the Nintendo Switch; allowing Microsoft to be part of the greater gaming conversation at a time when its perception is being weighed down by questions about exclusive titles. Being the only holdout and not participating in the relative industry phenomenon puts a bullseye on Sony's for angry commentary from both reviewers and gamers for now.