At a presentation in San Francisco today, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was enthusiastic about the cross-play opportunities available with Fortnite Battle Royale. Ever since the mobile release, he says, there are 36 potential cross-play pairings possible ...
Dave Thier , Contributor I write about video games and technology. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Credit: Epic Games
At a presentation in San Francisco today, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney was enthusiastic about the cross-play opportunities available with Fortnite Battle Royale. Ever since the mobile release, he says, there are 36 potential cross-play pairings possible with the game, and of those, gamers can use 35 right now. It's a good score no matter how you look at it, even if one of those pairings is conspicuously absent, and we all know which one it is. Despite extensive cross-play between PC, mobile and console, PS4 and Xbox One players still can't play Fortnite together.
If Epic had its way that wouldn't be the case, says Sweeney, bringing up the Wikipedia page for Metcalfe's Law to make his point. Bigger networks create more value, and the artificial barriers between two nodes on this network are only holding people back. Epic's vision for the future of games is platform agnostic performance and development, where a title like Fortnite can work as the same game no matter what platform it's on. Right now, they're remarkably close, and the work that Epic is doing on Fortnite is being made available to other Unreal developers as well. Sweeney is confident that barrier will finally come down.
Cross-play between Microsoft and Sony is certainly popular with most of the involved parties. Epic is clearly a fan, and gamers have been supportive of cross-play for years. Microsoft, too, has been pretty upfront about its support for cross-play both in general and for Fortnite, specifically. The missing link here is clearly Sony, which has yet to publicly comment on Fortnite cross-play.
Sony has the most to lose and the least to gain from implementing cross-play: the PS4 is currently the largest console network, and that's a huge competitive advantage that drives new players into the ecosystem. Cross-play would significantly weaken that advantage, but at a certain point blocking it starts to look like anti-consumer behavior.
My prediction is in line with Sweeney's: this barrier will come down, and Fortnite will likely be the game to do it. We're just too close right now, with all the traditional arguments against cross-play melting away in the face of Epic's monster craze and technical flexibility. And if Fortnite enables cross-play between Xbox One and PS4, it will become that much harder to argue against it for other games. It sounds ridiculous, but we might be able to finally see this particular wall come down.
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