While the “open beta” cross-console play only applies to for now, Sony writes that it is “look[ing] to open up the platform” and is “now in the planning process across the organization to support this change… for other titles going forward.” Elsewhere in the announcement, Sony says it has “identified a path toward supporting cross-platform features for select third-party content,” suggesting the decision might still apply only on a case-by-case basis.
“For 24 years, we have strived to deliver the best gaming experience to our fans by providing a uniquely PlayStation perspective,” Sony writes in the announcement. “Today, the communities around some games have evolved to the point where cross-platform experiences add significant value to players.”
In its announcement, Sony recognized “the community’s continued patience as we have navigated through this issue to find a solution.” The “major policy change” required a “comprehensive evaluation process,” the company writes, as the beta will serve as a test of the new policy’s effects on “the user experience from both a technical and social perspective.”
A long road
It has been about 30 months since Microsoft threw down the gauntlet on cross-console play, opening up Xbox Live to work with any outside platform that would have it. Since then, Sony has kept the PlayStation Network stubbornly closed off from other consoles’ online platforms, despite complaints from multiple game developers that Sony’s policy was the only thing stopping them from adding such support to their games.
Things started coming to a head earlier this year, when players found that merely linking their game accounts to the PS4 version of the game locked them out from using that same account on the Nintendo Switch version. More recently, Bethesda issued what it called a “non-negotiable” demand that any pending console version of its card game must have full cross-console support.
Sony initially said it was “happy to have the conversation” on cross-console play back in 2016, and executive Jim Ryan said there wasn’t “a profound philosophical stance” against cross-console play in 2017. Such statements led to no actual action until today, even as Sony Interactive Entertainment America President Shawn Layden said in June that he was “confident” that a cross-console “solution” was coming.