If a game is nearly identical on multiple game platforms, why can't all of its players play together? The technical hurdles to overcome are minor, and game developers would prefer not to split up their players.
Microsoft and Nintendo have both made major pushes towards allowing cross-play in the past year, but Sony refused to play ball.
The reason why, of course, is money.
With over 80 million consoles sold, Sony is ahead of Microsoft's Xbox One and Nintendo's Switch by tens of millions of units. And, as the market leader, there's little business incentive for Sony to work with competitors like Microsoft and Nintendo. So, for the past year, Sony has repeatedly refused to allow cross-play on the PlayStation 4.
But public sentiment on cross-play has shifted dramatically, and that sentiment forced Sony's hand. As of this week, Sony is officially giving in and allowing "Fortnite" players across competing game consoles to play with PlayStation 4 players.
That's a huge, precedent-breaking shift.
Since the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System, game console manufacturers have refused to let their users play with the competition. But that stance has made less and less sense as games become increasingly similar across competing platforms. It's the logical endpoint to multiplayer gaming.
If the same "Call of Duty" game is released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, it stands to reason that everyone playing that game should be able to play together — regardless of their console. And now, the public seems to agree.
When Microsoft enabled this functionality in 2017 in one of the biggest games in the world, "Minecraft," it opened the floodgates.
Suddenly, "Minecraft" players on Xbox One could play with iPhone and PC and even Nintendo Switch players. There was just one notable exception: Sony's PlayStation 4. It continues to be the exception, and it's not a measure of Microsoft not working with Sony — Sony apparently halted talks.
But with "Fortnite," Sony is taking the first steps toward allowing broader cross-platform functionality on the PlayStation 4. "This represents a major policy change for Sony Interactive Entertainment," Sony's announcement reads. "We are now in the planning process across the organization to support this change."