Is Sony Finally Opening the Walled Garden?
Fortnite, Dauntless, and now the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019). What do these titles have in common? They feature complete cross-play between PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, with some of them also expanding to Nintendo Switch and Mobile Phones.
Right now, we are looking at more games breaking down walls than ever before. Even Destiny 2 is getting a taste of cross-platform compatibility, announcing cross-saving between PS4, Xbox, PC, and Google Stadia for later this year. What does this mean? Is Sony finally starting to play nice? Perhaps, or perhaps the company’s hand has been forced by the growing partnerships between other systems.
One of the very first articles I wrote for Exclusively Games was titled ‘Sony’s Walled Garden: A Foolish Approach,’ and in it I discussed Sony’s avoidance of cross-platform features. Since then, we have seen games like Dauntless receive cross-progression and cross-play, we’ve seen CoD announce their 2019 title with full cross-play, the first real AAA title to do so. We’ve seem Destiny 2 get a new cross-save feature, which while it does not allow for cross-play, does allow for a form of cross-progression. Things are looking up for fans of cross-platform systems.
But does this mean that Sony is ready to open their doors, or is this the result of something else? Let’s look at this on a case-by-case basis.
One of the biggest games in the world had to pull teeth in order to convince Sony to allow cross-play and cross-progression.
It took a lot of time and effort, but Epic Games came out of it, not only with a win for cross-platform systems, but a complete cross-platform infrastructure that they could use for other games. This was actually how one of the more recent cross-platform titles, Dauntless, got their game into the system. They moved their PC version to the Epic Games Store, and managed to get in some last minute negotiations with Sony to activate complete cross-platform systems. These two games are both cross-compatible thanks to Epic, but what about Destiny 2 or Call of Duty?
This is not a confirmed thing by any means, but my current theory is that Destiny 2 got cross-save allowed for PS4 players because purchases do not cross the system gap. Anything you’ve bought: expansions, silver, annual passes, are all tied to the system you purchased them on. Because of this, you still have to buy the game’s content elsewhere. If you own the full Shadowkeep expansion and annual pass on, say, Google Stadia, you can play all of that content there, but to play the paid content on PS4, you’d still have to buy it on PS4. It’s a sort of pseudo-cross-progression, where your progress transfers, but not your purchases or licenses. Like I said before, this is just my running theory, but it makes the most sense. Bungie gets what they want–their players can play with anyone, anywhere. As a trade off, you have to buy everything on every platform you want to play on to get the full experience.
So that explains (at least theoretically) the reason why Destiny 2 got what they wanted, but what about Modern Warfare (2019)? The game is not connected to any of these other titles, it is a massive AAA title, and it still has console exclusive content on PS4. This case probably has something to do with Activision and Call of Duty’s general sway. The games are hyper-massive and still growing, but this is the first time they’ve ever even mentioned anything cross-platform-wise. This seems more than anything to be a simple power play: Activision and Infinity Ward are making their game cross-play compatible because they can. It’s the cool, hip thing to do.
If Fortnite can do it and make that kind of money and player numbers, why can’t Call of Duty?