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Sony’s stalling tactics on cross-play worked

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The issue of cross-platform play on the PlayStation 4 no longer seems as pressing

PlayStation 4 Pro Sony Interactive Entertainment

Sony is still getting dragged in public for its decision to keep PlayStation 4 players segregated from other consoles and the PC, but it looks like the company has gotten away from the fight without making any concessions to its cross-play policy. All Sony had to do was make a few vague statements saying it was aware of the concerns — and then wait to see if people would care in a few weeks.

It turns out that Sony’s strategy was pretty effective. The pain, it seems, never became great enough for the company to act on it.

Things felt like they were at a fever pitch during E3 of this year, when fans realized that playing Fortnite on the PlayStation 4 meant that their accounts were unusable on the Nintendo Switch. Social media was filled with howls of outrage; Sony wasn’t able to tweet about anything without it coming up in the responses. We theorized that this could be the controversy that forced Sony to finally make the decision to reverse its policy.

The situation may have led to some interesting marketing opportunities for its competitors, but Sony has stood firm. The PlayStation 4 remains the only system walled off from cross-platform play.

But the fact remains: The lack of cross-platform is bad for everyone except Sony. And that’s why Sony is still stalling.

“It’s so bad,” Fortnite streaming celebrity Tyler “Ninja” Blevins recently told Polygon of Sony’s refusal to enable cross-play. “I mean, like, obviously I love Sony, I love PlayStation. I’ve been playing them my entire life. [...] But, when push comes to shove, it’s a business decision. There’s a reason they’re not allowing players on the PlayStation to play with Xbox. And I mean — it’s just greed.”

He had strong words for the console giant: “Don’t be the barrier to the future.”

Bethesda’s Pete Hines didn’t specifically name Sony as the target of a recent conversation about cross-platform play for The Elder Scrolls: Legends, but it’s clear who he was referring to.

“We cannot have a game that works one way across everywhere else except for on this one thing,” Hines told Game Informer. “We can’t be talking about one version of Legends, where you take your progress with you, and another version where you stay within that ecosystem or its walled off from everything else. That is counter to what the game has been about.”

So the publicity around the lack of cross-platform play is still negative, but there’s no financial reason for Sony to adjust its strategy unless these conversations harm Sony’s bottom line or status as the console leader. There’s no evidence that has been the case, and Sony’s bland statement about the issue was likely designed to give the company time for the outrage to die down. Publishers and online personalities may still try to pressure Sony to change its mind, but it no longer feels like they will make much of a difference.

But the PlayStation 4 won’t be able to stop the future entirely. The trend toward multiplatform games with portable accounts that work on your Xbox, PC and Nintendo Switch will continue, with PlayStation 4 players existing on their own off to the side. Until fans make it clear that the situation is intolerable, Sony has no reason to change — and that’s a message that can only be sent with their wallets.