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Industry Analyst Says Sony’s Fortnite Cross-Play Block Makes Sense

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Yes, more news on that there cross-play drama, and this time it comes in the form of a business analyst for video games saying Sony’s decision to block cross-play with Xbox on games like Fortnite is a smart business move that is unlikely to damage its reputation quite as badly as many op-eds and forums would like to believe.

Karol Severin, MIDiA Research's lead analyst for research on games and the mobile content economy, was on hand to talk with MCV about why its ‘best for business’ if Sony continues to keep the walls around its personal garden. It brings up some rather sensible points that may well upset players who are adamant Sony must conform.

Severin kicks things off by pointing out PlayStation’s current place in a market that isn’t exactly growing.

PlayStation is a chip leader, protecting a not-so-growing console gamer market
Console ownership is flat. In Q4 2016, 36% of consumers in the English-speaking markets owned a games console, compared to 30% in Q4 2017. Because console adoption is not growing, competitive platform wars are all about convincing existing console gamers to switch to a rival platform by the time the next generation of hardware comes out.

This is why Microsoft in particular, is on the offensive to show all it can do that Sony will not. Just to try and shift the balance of a market that currently favors its multiplayer ps4 games fortnite

Severin continues,

PlayStation has the largest console gaming ecosystem out there (side note: this didn't happen by coincidence, but because PlayStation manages to consistently offer hardware and content catalogue that resonates with gamers).

It knows that growth of the non-hardware part of its gaming business is moving towards monetising engagement of existing users, rather than expecting significant increases of new users. The more important engagement becomes in gaming monetisation, the more of an upper hand will PlayStation have over its rivals by having the largest active user base. Therefore, it needs to protect its user base lead at any cost.

Yes, it’s cynical, but it does pose the question. Why on Earth would Sony willingly damage its own market share for a bit of extra goodwill that benefits its competitors?

Cross-platform gaming can improve this experience for Xbox users and help close the gap. This makes it convenient for Xbox to push the cross-platform narrative and spotlight the resilient Sony in the process, in a bid to capture some market share from disgruntled fans.

However, the truth is that PS is not building a walled garden because it wants to aggravate gamers, but simply because it has incomparably less to gain from cross-platform than its main rival. In fact, it would be losing some of its competitive advantage.

Severin finishes up by explaining why, despite the noise surrounding this issue, Sony is probably safe from the kind of mass boycott many are predicting in the future.

Gaming network friendships are often formed between people who don't know each other in real life. Gamers happen to be in the same gaming session, help each other out and subsequently send a friend request. The more online-multiplayer-centric gaming becomes, the more players will need ‘friends' in their network to enjoy the experience fully.

Real-life friend networks are not large enough to ensure that there will be real-life friends available whenever a gamer wants to engage in a session and needs help. So even though ‘playing with real friends' would be nice, players would likely still need their ‘random friend connections' to truly play at their own convenience. Some players have spent a lot of time building their friends list, but if they decide to change from PS to Xbox, they will lose them and have to start again.

This makes PlayStation's ecosystem lock more powerful than many realise. The first consumer thought may be: I'm fed up, I want to change platform. Indeed, some may do just that. Others however, will take a deep breath, weigh out the pros and cons and if they care about their game progress and player network more than playing with real-life friends (which high-spending hardcore gamers do), then the smarter choice may be to stay loyal.

Does this mean Sony should feel it needn’t address the situation? No. While Sony isn’t necessarily being mean-spirited about cross-play, it is going to take little knocks to its reputation when these unwinnable arguments come up, so saying something more than ‘we sold a lot of PS4s‘ is probably a good start, even if it is, in itself, a good indicator as to why the walls will stay up around Sony’s garden.

  • Al Buns

    Of course it makes sense. Cross play was never what was promised. Playing on PSN against people on PSN is what you pay for when you buy a PS4. Most games don’t even allow cross play. Less than 2% have cross play.

    • GigaGaia

      Yeah, this is definitely far less important than the vocal minority make it seem to be.

      There are 2 scenarios here:

      1) Sony caves in and allow crossplay.

      2) This all eventually blow over and nothing happens.

      Pretty sure the PS5 will be the leader next-gen no matter which one of these scenarios happen, but number 2 is the most likely one unless you see a massive influx of crossplay games.

  • xspike_spiegel

    I completely disagree. It may help this generation, but people will remember. Next gen they will be skeptical in buying Playstation when they see Xbox, switch, and pc all being able to cross play with friends even if they don’t have the same console. It’s definitely making me rethink future purchases.

    • Albert Belle

      When Microsoft did it to Sony and refused to do crossplay with them and gave them some BS excuse no one said anything. In fact most people don’t even remember it. Why? Because everything Sony does is controversial while when Microsoft and Nintendo do the same everyone makes excuses for them.You may not like it but what he says is true. There is no reason to give the competition a leg just to give a little goodwill towards them for a couple of games when they would have done the same thing in Sony’s place only with no ‘controversy’.

      They don’t care about the gamers as they claim they just want to use Sony’s vast network of players they have now to get ahead because they are lagging behind. They want money too you know. So please stop the fake and exaggerated outrage. We on our network have tens of millions of people to play with compared to Microsoft and Nintendo combined. It’s not like we are lacking anyone to play with which is the point. The few people they do have for the few games that do crossplay isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to what we have. It’s only Microsoft and Nintendo who are blowing a fuse and trying to stir up trouble because we won’t let them into our club and that they can’t take advantage of Sony for their own motives.

      • xspike_spiegel

        What leg up? I’m talking next gen. When Microsoft did it, it wasn’t the most popular game running. People will remember. I can’t play rocket league with my friend on a switch but someone with an Xbox can? It’s stupid.

        Fake outrage? Yeah…. Ok. I’ve put legitimate reasons up there and you come across with this “we” stuff like Sony is making these decisions with your consultation.

        It’s not the company’s, it’s the gamers who are angry. Sony lost last gen. Horribly, I might add. They did great this gen because they were open and put gamers first. This is not putting gamers first.

        • Albert Belle

          Yeah you obviously read nothing I just wrote. I am talking about Sony giving them a leg up this gen since they are lagging behind. And you didn’t think it’s stupid that you couldn’t play crossplay on your PS3 and your Xbox? Why weren’t you or anyone outraged then? People didn’t put Microsoft down for rejecting them. In fact people barely even remember it. But now it’s Sony suddenly EVERYONE will remember what they did? That is fake outrage. you get upset when one person does it but ignore when the other does.Where was this great outrage when Microsoft gave some BS reason that they didn’t want to crossplay with the PS3. Do you know why? Because they thought the same thing. They didn’t want Sony to gain any advantage so they rejected them outright with no proper excuse why.

          And who do you think is riling everyone up with fake outrage? It’s Microsoft and Nintendo being smug knowing this is an opportunity to smear Sony. And why? Because you can’t play a couple of games crossplay on your systems? Most people don’t even do that. So they must give a tiny bit of goodwill to play a couple of games crossplay just so their competition can step on their heads to get past them? Do you really believe that anyone of their competition would be so eager to do this if it was reversed? No. And I can guarantee there would be no outrage. I am amazed how easily people are conned by these people.

          The situation is no different from Sony asking Microsoft and them saying no for ‘reasons’. It’s just that you and many others decided to blow it up bigger than it actually is. People were too busy back then giggling about how the PS3 is failing and counting the days to Sony’s bankruptcy to even remember half the crap the competition did back then. But now the situation is reversed and they refuse it’s the worst possible thing ever and people will remember it. I could bet you my head if it was Nintendo or Microsoft who did it you along with everyone else would be nodding like bobble heads and saying ‘Oh yeah crossplay with Sony is a bad idea. It’s business after all and you can’t expect them to just knuckle under and submit to Sony because they asked’ and it would be forgotten in the space of a month or two tops.

          • GigaGaia

            Last gen, we didn’t hear much about it because Sony didn’t make a scene about it. This generation though, Microsoft are being extremely petty and they’re pointing the finger at Sony trying to make them the bad guy.

            Microsoft are extremely sore losers and their tactics are not working, Sony are still crushing.

            The sad part is that Sony could literally be petty as well and put the nail in their coffin next gen. If they wanted, they could just approach Nintendo for crossplay while leaving Microsoft utterly alone on purpose. I assume if given the choice, Nintendo would choose Sony instead of Microsoft because Playstation are a much bigger brand, it would benefits more to choose them and both are Japanese companies, which would make the relationship easier.

          • xspike_spiegel

            We didn’t hear about it because it wasn’t that big of deal then. Only reason this is being brought up in such a big way is because of Fortnite and all other console manufacturers are working with each other to allow their gamer base to play with whomever they want.

          • xspike_spiegel

            Looks like Sony saw it my way too eventually…lololol

          • xspike_spiegel

            I didn’t read eveyything in detail because it’s the same points over and over. Ms did it first 5 years ago blah blah blah sony fan boy dribble dribble.

            I didn’t even know Sony wasn’t allowing cross play until I tried to play rocket league with my brother in law. So, please, please tell me how that’s ‘fake outrage’.

            A. I’m not outraged

            2. I’m inconvenienced.

            D. Nothing Microsoft does this generation besides offering their entire library free of charge will give them a leg up.

    • GigaGaia

      It won’t even matter at all. The PS5 will still win next-gen by a huge lead because people will go where the games are, which is the PS5.

      • xspike_spiegel

        PS3 had better games but Microsoft still sold way more.

        People say it’s the games, but what really gave Sony the best position possible was when Microsoft said you couldn’t resell games. Besides EAs craptastic release of Battlefront 2, that was the worst product launch this gen.

        • GigaGaia

          The only reason the 360 did so well was because Sony screwed up badly with the PS3 and released a year later and at a higher price. The 360 was a good console, but it’s not why it did so well.

          Had the PS3 launched in 2005 at $500 like the 360, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because the 360 would have been buried by the PS3.

          Also, the PS3 outsold the 360 worldwide every single months the moment it was released and ended up in second place in the end. The 360 are the ones that were in last place.

          I don’t think it would have mattered if Microsoft did everything right at the beginning of the generation because Sony actually also did everything right. Microsoft doesn’t even have a remote chance to win unless Sony launch their next console a year later and more expensive, which is never gonna happen again.

          • xspike_spiegel

            Definitely agree with you about the price and late coming to the party didn’t help at all.

            Except Wii has sold over 100 mill. So puts PS3 in 3rd overall. But be that as it may, doesn’t change this generation and certainly doesn’t predict next.

          • Beasley2K

            The Wii was half the price of the systems – that’s why it sold more, because it was so cheap, not because it was “better”. Sell a system for £1 and watch them fly off shelves. But the problem with the Wii is that not many games were bought for it, and that’s where the money is.

            PS3 may not have outsold the Wii, but it sold more games, had greater longevity, and even outsold the cheaper 360 with one year less on the market.

          • xspike_spiegel

            Hahahaha hahaha…. I guess Sony saw my way in the end…. Hahahahaja

        • Beasley2K

          That rubbish. Xbox and Nintnedo combined has less of the market than PlayStation, so if people want to play with most of their friends, then PS4 is the way to go.

          Also, Xbox didn’t sell more – by the end of the generation, PS3 had overtaken 360 with a year late to the market and a more expensive system.

          That’s an incredible comeback. Xbox can’t even win when it starts with an advantage.

  • Beasley2K

    It’s brand protectionism. PlayStation are dominating this generation, and for good reason.

    Now if you want to play against your friend that has a PS4, you need to buy a PS4. Because so many people have one, it’s a no-brainer and many Xbox fans have switched already. If crossplay was an option, people can play against their PS4 friends without even buying one. They could also buy their games on Xbox, meaning Microsoft get the money, not Sony.

    And it’s good for us if Sony makes more! The more they earn, the more they’ll invest in us, the gamers.

    Let’s not act like Microsoft has our best interests at heart here – they want crossplay because they’re losing the generation, haemorrhaging customers, and want a slice of Sony’s considerable pie. If they really cared about crossplay for the “good of gaming”, they’d have agreed to crossplay when Sony suggested it a decade ago.