There's ‘a bit of Game of Thrones’ going on with console cross play, says Tim Sweeney

With console exclusive games in decline and more people than ever choosing to play together in massive online multiplayer worlds it’s unsurprising that cross-platform play between consoles is being hotly debated once more. 

At this year’s Gamescom Xbox head of marketing Aaron Greenberg told Gamereactor “we are talking to Sony [about cross play], we do partner with them on Minecraft and of course we would like to enable them to be part of that; one community, to unite gamers,“ Greenberg said. 

Though PC and consoles are playing nice and we’re seeing an increasing number of titles such as Rocket League and Minecraft become playable across different platforms, it’s a very different story with consoles.

Sony's resistance

Traditionally, while Microsoft has been more open to the idea, Sony has been much more resistant to connecting the Xbox and PlayStation platforms in this way. The most recent instance of this was Sony’s absence from Minecraft’s ‘Better Together’ update which united players across Xbox, PC, mobile, and Nintendo Switch.

No one knows exactly why Sony is so opposed to the idea of cross-platform play, but many assume it’s because the PlayStation 4 is so far ahead in sales that it isn’t in Sony’s interest to give consumers any reason to opt for an Xbox One.

We got the chance to sit down with Epic Games founder and Unreal Engine creator Tim Sweeney at this year’s show and he seemed to believe that this resistance is actually to the benefit of no one.

No winners

“I guess there’s a bit of Game of Thrones going on in the way that console makers deal with each other” Sweeney acknowledged, “but ultimately there’s huge value in enabling gamers to connect with all of their friends. 

“If you look at any gamer, whether they’re an adult or a kid, every gamer has a lot of friends and each has a different device. In any circle of friends there’s going to be PlayStation, Xbox and PC users and all of these platforms would benefit greatly from being open and enabling all of these different gamers to play with their friends. I’d love to see some diplomacy. Nations have diplomacy, so maybe console makers could have diplomacy too.”

This kind of openness and crossover between hardware manufacturers is something that’s been quite prevalent in the area of virtual reality. With the platform still trying to find its place in the mainstream consumer market, manufacturers are finding it’s important to make the technology as easy and accessible as possible for both consumers and developers. A big part of this is making multiplayer games like Star Trek: Bridge Crew that can be played together across the headsets.

“They’ll find that even though they’re competing on the hardware front there are actually areas of mutual benefit and we should all work together to break down those barriers"

Tim Sweeney

Though games consoles are now firmly established and consumers don’t need to be convinced that they’re a technology worth buying into, Sweeney still thinks manufacturers, developers and gamers alike would see benefits from consoles supporting cross-platform play.

“They’ll find that even though they’re competing on the hardware front there are actually areas of mutual benefit and we should all work together to break down those barriers, for openness and cross play between all platforms. I think all multiplayer games would be better for cross play.”

“Just imagine,” he added, “if there were several different social networks and one of them only worked on iOS, another only worked on Android, so you could only socialise with your friends on the same platform as you. I mean, how ridiculous would that be? But that’s the case on console right now.”

While there’s no telling how the discussions between Sony and Microsoft are progressing at this stage we hope things are moving in a positive direction and Sweeney’s vision of more open console gaming becomes a reality. 

Look out for our full interview with Tim Sweeney on the site on Monday August 28, where you can read more about his thoughts on cross play, Xbox One X, VR and the future of gaming.  

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.