Source: Epic Games
Sony doesn't usually give up. It moved ahead with the PlayStation after Nintendo abandoned the partnership, released The Interview despite being hacked by North Korea, and has kept the Walkman brand going long after most people started listening to music on their phones. Yet the company seems to have found a hill it's not willing to die on: the decision not to let PlayStation owners play with friends using other consoles.
Consoles used to get away with only letting players interact with other people who own the same console. That has started to change, though, especially as Microsoft and Nintendo embraced cross-play with the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Sony refused to join in on the fun--at least until Epic Games made a mountain out of a molehill when Fortnite debuted on the Switch and PlayStation owners asked where all their stuff was.
Fortnite requires all of its players to create Epic accounts that are used to sync cosmetic items, payment details, and other information across devices. That's why you can buy a Fortnite skin on PC, sign in to the game on a console and find your in-game avatar looking just as dapper as you left them. This works no matter what platform you play on... until you connect an Epic account to a PS4. Then everything is locked down.
Taking away someone's Fortnite skins is like yanking a toddler's favorite toy from their hands. The outcry was massive, and even though Sony initially responded by trumpeting PS4 owners' ability to play with PC and mobile gamers, the company eventually conceded that maybe it had to re-examine its stance. Not long after, Bethesda said it wouldn't release The Elder Scrolls: Legends on any platform that didn't support cross-play.
Which brings us to now. Sony announced that it's hosting a Fortnite open beta to "allow for cross platform gameplay, progression, and commerce across PlayStation 4, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Mac operating systems." Details are scarce, but Sony plans to share more specifics about when the beta will be held and "what this means for other titles going forward" as it makes those decisions.
The company also admitted that its approach to cross-play simply didn't make sense in modern gaming:
"For 24 years, we have strived to deliver the best gaming experience to our fans by providing a uniquely PlayStation perspective. Today, the communities around some games have evolved to the point where cross-platform experiences add significant value to players. In recognition of this, we have completed a thorough analysis of the business mechanics required to ensure that the PlayStation experience for our users remains intact today, and in the future as we look to open up the platform."
This is a big step towards allowing true cross-play on all platforms. As long as developers care to support as many platforms as possible--and many already do so they can maximize a game's potential audience--the so-called "platform wars" won't create actual rifts between people who just happen to own different gaming rigs. The company sustaining a brand associated with CD and cassette players is embracing the future.