If you own a PlayStation 4 game that’s also on the Xbox One, like “Overwatch” for instance, there’s no way to play it with your friends across platforms. The game is more or less identical on each console, and it’s an online multiplayer game. You should be able to play it with whoever, on whatever platform they’re playing it on, but you can’t.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Yes, and it’s always been that way.” And you’d be right! But just because it’s always been that way doesn’t make it logical. Microsoft is attempting to change that standard by making the massively popular “Minecraft” playable with friends across platforms.
And Microsoft is succeeding, sort of. With its “Better Together” update, announced earlier this year and now live, “Minecraft” can be played with friends who are on mobile devices, Xbox One, PC, and even VR headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR and Facebook’s Oculus Rift.
Notably, two major platforms are missing from that list: Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
Incredibly, “Minecraft” on Nintendo Switch will actually be added to this list “by the end of the year,” Microsoft’s “Minecraft” lead Matt Booty told us in an interview this week. PlayStation 4 is less certain, but Microsoft is actually working with Sony on making it happen.
“Sony is a good partner, and they are working with us on this,” Booty said.
That’s a pretty major change from what we heard earlier this year.
“You should probably ask them,” Xbox leader Phil Spencer said in an interview with Business Insider in June, when asked about why the PlayStation 4 version doesn’t work with other platforms. He added, “I don’t mean that to be snippy. We’ve shown our intent on what we want to go do. And I’d love for ‘Minecraft’ players to get to play ‘Minecraft.'”
It sounds like, since June, Microsoft and Sony are discussing making that happen.
“I know that Sony has taken some heat in the press, and they are working with us on this,” Booty said. “I feel good that we’re gonna work this out. If we all take the angle that we should do what’s best for players, that guiding principle will lead us to the right decision and we’ll work it out.”
Of course, just because “Minecraft” is able to play nice across platforms doesn’t mean that, say, “Overwatch” is going to suddenly work across platforms. Booty sees “Minecraft” as helping to build a foundation for future collaboration.
“The way these things work is that somebody always has to go first,” he said. “It helps to work out the specifics with a particular game and figure that out.”
In this case, “Minecraft” is being used as the first attempt to bridge Xbox One and PlayStation 4 players. In a few years, you could be playing games like “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield” with your friends on whatever platform they’re playing the game on.
In the meantime, Microsoft and Sony are at least working on that functionality. The major hurdle of two competing companies simply getting together and discussing how to make such a thing work has already been overcome. Now, it’s just a measure of working out logistics.
“Those consoles need to understand how to respect each other’s settings,” Booty said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to make that work. We want to be really careful that we don’t just open this and get into a situation, particularly with ‘Minecraft,’ where we’re not respecting all the parental controls.”
There’s no word on when cross-play between Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is coming to “Minecraft” — there isn’t even a guarantee that it’s going to happen — but Booty’s openness about the process and his passion for making it happen provide some hope:
“We think that ‘Minecraft’ — given its deeply cross-platform nature and the wide range of devices where it’s played — is a great opportunity to figure this out. We’re probably gonna hit some roadblocks along the way, but if we stick to what’s good for the player, hopefully we can fix the platform challenges.”
“Hopefully” is right.
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