In the wake of the revelation that Epic has been forced to cut a special deal with Sony for Fortnite crossplay on PlayStation, paying them extra to make up potential microtransaction revenue shortfalls, I wondered if other developers would start speaking up about the practice.
Well, here we go.
This morning, Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford announced that Borderlands 3 was getting an upcoming patch to support crossplay on all platforms. But…
The publisher here would be 2K, but this appears is a shot at Sony, albeit the phrasing is a bit weird. The implication is that perhaps Sony is refusing to allow this, or demanding a similar deal to Epic for some extra cash that 2K simply won’t agree to. Hence no crossplay on PlayStation for Borderlands.
Unlike Fortnite, Borderlands 3 does not have microtransactions, but the game is still sold new, and it sells add-ons like DLC or Season Passes. In the case of Fortnite, Sony’s issue was if players spend the majority of their playtime on PlayStation, but spend money on a different storefront, Epic was required to pay some of the difference to Sony. It’s not clear how that kind of deal would work with Borderlands 3’s structure, nor that even if there was such a deal, that 2K or Gearbox would agree to it.
Publicly, Sony’s position on crossplay has been about “security” and not being able to vouch for a game experience on platforms other than the PlayStation network. Privately, as revealed through the Epic V Apple case, Sony was much more blunt. Here’s Sony’s Gio Corsi talking to Epic:
“As you know, many companies are exploring this idea and not a single one can explain how cross-console play improves the PlayStation business.”
The “real” reason for Sony’s opposition is that they likely want to snowball their console sales lead. In their eyes, it does not benefit Sony if PlayStation Borderlands 3 players can play with Xbox Borderlands 3 players. Sony would rather that second person buy a PlayStation to play with their friend. Now multiply that times 115 million PS4 sales, and you see why Sony wants to use that massive install base to pressure even more sales.
That said, there may be a certain point where Sony’s resistance to crossplay does them more harm than good, and what we’re seeing today is another symptom of that. Microsoft has been trying to cultivate this “for the gamers” image, and their immediate embrace of all forms of crossplay is a part of that. But Sony is being viewed negatively each time this issue comes up, and it’s unclear when they may just have to fold and give up on the archaic idea that crossplay shouldn’t exist for reasons other than “it’s bad for Sony’s business.” As even that may not be true now, if the PR around the issue becomes toxic enough.
I’ve reached out to Sony to see if they have a comment on Pitchford’s remarks, and I have also written 2K to see if they can clarify Randy’s comments on the exact issue with PlayStation. I will update if I hear back.
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