Last week was a triumphant GDC for Sony.
PlayStation VR was the talk of San Francisco, and the firm’s return to game industry dominance is looking more assured with every passing press conference.
But there was one question that the platform holder didn’t have an answer to last week, and one that was cannily placed into the minds of the media by its closest competitor.
Xbox’s announcement that it will allow for cross-platform play – not just with PC but PS4 as well – was latched upon by gamers worldwide. I even heard a couple of teenagers discussing it on the train this morning.
The idea that they could play with their friends no matter what platform they owned was something gamers have long craved. Not least because we’ll finally see console wars move from the NeoGaf forums and onto the battlefields of Call of Duty.
But it was a sneaky announcement. There’s no indication that PlayStation will allow for such a thing. Andrew House, Shuhei Yoshida and the PlayStation PR team carefully fended off the questions at GDC, suggesting they would have to look at it, but that won’t be the end of it.
The truth is, cross-platform gameplay doesn’t benefit PlayStation. One of the most popular reasons as to why gamers choose one console over another is that their friends own the same machine. That’s why both Microsoft and Sony were so quick to cut the price to get their install bases up as quickly as possibly. Whoever takes the early lead tends to keep it.
PS4 took that lead. It’s install base is fast approaching 40m and that success is just breeding more success. However, if Xbox One and PS4 players can suddenly play together, then it doesn’t matter which machines their friends own. PlayStation would lose the strategic advantage its superior sales has provided it.
It means PlayStation must make a choice: does it take the sensible business option and refuse Xbox entry? Or does it prove that its ‘for the players’ mantra is more than just a marketing slogan, and allow Xbox in.
It’s a difficult decision, although based on Sony’s recent track record, you’d imagine they’ll make the right choice.