As gaming continues to grow in ubiquity, a chief feature powering that growth is being threatened by platform territorialism. Interoperability - the ability to play games with friends no matter what sort of platform they’re on - is the heart of a growing social network of gaming devices. But not all platform holders support it.
“I think it’s in everyone’s interest to support interoperability,” said Epic Games’ founder and CEO Tim Sweeney. “Whatever the history, it’s really in gamers’ interest to play with all of their friends. Gamers who play with their friends spend more and are more engaged.”
Fortnite, which now plays on all consoles, Windows, Mac, iPhone and soon Android, currently has 36 possible combinations of interoperability, but only 35 are supported: everything but play between PlayStation and Xbox.
Currently, it’s PlayStation standing in the way of that particular cross-play support, but historically Microsoft and Nintendo have also blocked that feature in games on multiple platforms.
It’s a way of thinking that Sweeney believes can only harm the game industry in the long run.
He says he sees in that interoperability a new sort of social network, one that could connect all gamers no matter the system they play on.
“With a game like Fortnite, in middle schools you have classrooms who play together,” he said. “That traditional divide between PlayStation and Xbox owners doesn’t need to be there.”
While PlayStation has been a hindrance, Sweeney sees baby steps in the right direction when it comes to Sony's decision to honor in-game purchases no matter what platform they're made on.
“It’s an amazing thing,” he said, “Sony and Microsoft honor purchases in Fortnite made on an iOS platform, or on their platform. In that way all of these platforms are working together.”
He adds that Epic has been talking with Sony, but declined to go into details about how those conversations were going, just noting that he thinks change is inevitable.
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