Sony is tearing down the multiplayer wall between the PlayStation 4 and other game consoles. Starting today with an open beta for Fortnite, PlayStation 4 owners can play with friends on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, and can also carry their purchases and progression to those platforms. (Previously, the PlayStation 4 only supported cross-play with PC or mobile devices.) Sony says it will also extend cross-platform support to other games in the future.
Although Xbox and Switch owners have been able to play together since June, Sony kept its PlayStation 4 players isolated from other consoles, just as it had in the past with Minecraft and Rocket League. Last month, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said the company was restricting cross-play to provide “the best experience for users,” a stance that hasn’t sat well with players as Fortnite has become a global phenomenon. Sony’s blog post today doesn’t fully explain the change of heart, but says it follows “a comprehensive evaluation process” and represents “a major policy change” for the company.
The arrival of cross-play on PlayStation 4 is great news for Fortnite fans, but it also underscores the shifting power dynamics in the gaming business. Whereas console makers like Sony were once the ultimate gatekeepers, hit online games like Fortnite are becoming platforms in their own right, and we’re starting to see them throw their weight around.