PlayStation is knocking down the wall blocking off PS4 from cross-play with rival consoles. It all begins today, with a cross-platform beta for Fortnite.
After significant pressure from fans and the gaming industry at large, PS4 owners will be able to play with people on Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.
It's a historic moment not just for PlayStation, but for all of gaming - as all console owners will now be able to play together for the first time. PC, iPhone, iPad and Android players are also included.
Sony Interactive Entertainment boss John Kodera announced the news in a blog post today. Here is his statement in full:
"Following a comprehensive evaluation process, SIE has identified a path toward supporting cross-platform features for select third party content. We recognize that PS4 players have been eagerly awaiting an update, and we appreciate the community's continued patience as we have navigated through this issue to find a solution.
"The first step will be an open beta beginning today for Fortnite that will allow for cross platform gameplay, progression and commerce across PlayStation 4, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Mac operating systems. We see the beta as an opportunity to conduct thorough testing that ensures cross-platform play is best on PlayStation, while being mindful about the user experience from both a technical and social perspective.
"For 24 years, we have strived to deliver the best gaming experience to our fans by providing a uniquely PlayStation perspective. Today, the communities around some games have evolved to the point where cross-platform experiences add significant value to players. In recognition of this, we have completed a thorough analysis of the business mechanics required to ensure that the PlayStation experience for our users remains intact today, and in the future, as we look to open up the platform.
"This represents a major policy change for SIE, and we are now in the planning process across the organisation to support this change. We will update the community once we have more details to share, including more specifics regarding the beta timeframe, and what this means for other titles going forward."
The news comes on the eve of Fortnite's big season six launch - and everyone dropping money on a new season's battle pass. That's a lot of money for PlayStation, if people buy their shiny new battle pass through PlayStation's console store rather than Nintendo or Microsoft's.
In the past, Xbox and Nintendo have crowed about PlayStation's fussy refusal to allow cross-platform play.
Developers such as EA have been saying for a while that they wanted cross-platform play, too - with encouraging comments in the past from EA about FIFA, specifically. And there's been a huge and growing pressure from PlayStation fans seeing Xbox and Nintendo now supporting cross-play in games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Rocket League.
It is, technically, not the first time PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players have been able to play Fortnite together. Players noticed PSN and Xbox Live accounts were being matched together without issue - until Epic switched it off, blaming a "configuration issue".
But the technical side of things has never been the sticking point - instead, it seemed to be the commercial side of PlayStation blocking cross-play. Back in June, one ex-Sony developer said the company's stance was all about the money. But it was also in June that, as pressure mounted, Eurogamer's Robert Purchese got the following statement offering hope on the matter, from PlayStation boss Shawn Layden at Gamelab conference:
"We're hearing it," Layden said. "We're looking at a lot of the possibilities. You can imagine that the circumstances around that affect a lot more than just one game [Fortnite]. I'm confident we'll get to a solution which will be understood and accepted by our gaming community, while at the same time supporting our business."
That day has finally come.
Of course, Xbox has already been having some fun with the news:
đ— Xbox (@Xbox) September 26, 2018
Marvel: "Infinity War is the most ambitious crossover event in history"— Xbox UK (@xboxuk) September 26, 2018