This week, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer complained openly that Sony will not allow Minecraft cross-platform play to include the PlayStation 4. Nintendo, another competitor, has no problem with this capability, however.
“We talk to Sony all the time,” Mr. Spencer told Gamespot. “With Minecraft on PlayStation, we have to be one of the biggest games on their platform in terms of sales and gameplay. Same with Nintendo. The relationship with Nintendo on this front has been strong. They’ve been great supporters and we continue to collaborate with them. But I think Sony’s view is different. They should talk about what their view is…”
As you may recall, Microsoft this past summer announced that it would consolidate the many different versions of its hit game Minecraft across (almost) all of the platforms it supports. It was arguably the singular blockbuster announcements of this year’s E3 conference. Since then, Microsoft has updated Minecraft with the Better Together update, enabling that cross-platform play.
Except on PlayStation 4.
We’ve known since E3 that Microsoft’s inability to bring cross-platform Minecraft play to PS4 was Sony’s fault. But Spencer and other Microsoft executives had, to date, expressed hope that the firm would do the right thing.
Today, it appears that hope has died.
“I have a real struggle making comments about their motivation or timelines,” he says. “I know there is a certain view that says if my friends have this console, they can’t play with people who buy another console. That’s a reason they go buy my console. That reason is not going to go away. So we’re putting Minecraft out there as one of the biggest games on any platform and allowing people to play together regardless of what device they bought. I don’t think everybody is taking that same approach to the ecosystem. So I’m never going to call anything a lost cause but I think some of the fundamental reasons and certain scenarios, they’re not really going away. So I don’t know what would change.”
Sony, come on. Seriously.
Phil Spencer: Sony is Blocking Minecraft Cross Platform Play
Minecraft has a strong tradition of celebrating Halloween and this year is no different. According to a Microsoft, Minecraft’s Halloween Server Spooktacular is coming to “haunt your pixelated dreams” starting until October 31.
For the next 20 days, Minecraft players on the Bedrock Engine can trick-or-treat across servers hosted by various companies.
Each server is filled to the brim with activities but here are some of the main ones you’ll find:
- Lifeboat Servers: Hostile zombie invasions will take over the Lifeboat lobby throughout the course of Spooktacular. There, players can enter a thrilling haunted house parkour course.
- InPVP Servers: InPVP has players hopping from gravestone to gravestone with the Haunted Mansion SkyWars map or exploring creepy houses to find surprises.
- Mineplex Servers: In Mineplex, players come face-to-face with The Pumpkin King for random quests and boxes filled with goodies. There are also random events which grant you even better rewards.
Now, you might be wondering if you have to pay to access the event? The answer is no. It’s free. Personal Minecraft Realms are the servers you have to pay for. The Halloween Server Spooktacular is open to everyone on the Bedrock versions of the game, which excludes PlayStation 4 and the PC’s Java Edition. Just log into a modern version of Minecraft and join the servers for lots of thrills!
Minecraft’s ongoing Halloween event features boss battles and haunted houses
With this year’s Game Developer’s Conference barely started, Microsoft has already rolled out a major announcement that has the potential to significantly change the console gaming landscape. By allowing for cross-network play on Xbox Live, Microsoft has signaled it’s willing to open the doors to one of gaming’s most frustrating walled gardens and help restore the platform-agnostic promise of the early Internet.
The question is, why now? Microsoft has been running Xbox Live since 2002, and it’s been nearly a decade since the similar PlayStation Network launched on Sony’s PlayStation 3 (not to mention PC-based networks like Steam). Why hasn’t Microsoft made public overtures to connect these disparate networks before now?
Part of it might be technical, on all sides. After all, it’s easier to develop a new, private gaming network with tens of millions of users if you are in total control of all the hardware that will be connecting together. The Xbox 360 and PS3’s vastly different system architectures may have made true online agnosticism difficult on console developers in the last generation as well.
But a large part of it was surely business-related, at least for Microsoft. The lock-in effects of closed gaming networks means console gamers have long had to effectively coordinate their system purchases to line up with those of their online gaming friends.
Ten years ago, when the Xbox 360 was launching, this was a key advantage for Microsoft’s new system. Back then, Microsoft had years of experience running Xbox Live (compared to Sony’s standing start with the PlayStation Network), a one-year head start in reaching market with the Xbox 360, and online-centric exclusives like Halo and Gears of War in the pipe to drive multiplayer-focused gamers to its console ecosystem.
The momentum driven by that Xbox Live lock-in among console gaming’s online early adopters was no doubt a large part of why the Xbox 360 was able to find relative market success—especially in the West—following Sony’s market-dominating PlayStation 2 (though it surely wasn’t the only reason).
That means, all things being equal, this console generation is much more likely to see a critical mass of your friends playing on Sony’s PlayStation Network rather than on Microsoft’s Xbox Live. If both online ecosystems are closed off from each other, more new console buyers are going to follow those friends to Sony’s console if they want to play online. But in the world of cross-platform play Microsoft is proposing, the Xbox One might suddenly get a second look—especially since the system will give you access to a new Halo in addition to letting you play Call of Duty and Madden with all your PS4-owning friends.
And it’s a flag that Sony doesn’t have to accept. By offering “an open invitation for other networks [read: Sony] to participate as well,” though, Microsoft is very publicly pressuring Sony to follow the same course. Otherwise, Sony will likely take a significant PR hit for trying to hold on to its own relative walled-garden advantage at the expense of player convenience. (Developers will also have to play along, but the notion of having a single, unified base of players across two major consoles will probably win out over any technical growing pains in connecting the two similar consoles).
Sony hasn’t given much indication how it will respond to Microsoft’s very open invitation/dare, but it would be in everyone’s best interests if they could bury the hatchet. Business concerns aside, there’s no longer much reason to force developers and players to a limited base of competitors with the exact same hardware if they don’t want to. Hopefully, Sony won’t let its current market dominance prevent a chance to finally unify a hopelessly divided online gaming landscape.
Why Microsoft is finally pushing for cross-platform online gaming
Update: As if to reconfirm Microsoft’s interest in cross-console play, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said on Twitter that he “would have liked to see [Epic] leave it on.”
People playing Epic’s Fortnite on consoles recently were surprised to discover a new feature had been quietly added to the game: the ability to play with gamers on other consoles.
Over the weekend, a number of Reddit users posted evidence of players from other consoles showing up in their Fortnite games, including a father/son combo playing on two different consoles in the same room.
The cross-console connection became apparent because of a little-known naming convention between the two consoles: Microsoft’s Xbox Live allows players to use spaces in their online handle, while Sony’s PlayStation Network does not. Thus, when PS4 players noticed random opponents in their matches with handles that included spaces, they knew something odd was going on.
An Epic spokesperson confirmed to Ars Technica that cross-console play had been turned on for the game recently, adding in the same breath that the addition had been a mistake. “We had a configuration issue, and it has now been corrected,” the spokesperson said by way of official comment.
While further on-the-record information isn’t forthcoming (Sony has yet to respond to a request for comment from Ars Technica), it’s not hard to guess what happened here. Since Microsoft started publicly pushing for cross-console play last year, a number of developers have gone on record complaining that Sony is the only remaining bottleneck to letting PS4 and Xbox One players join together for online play. “All we have to do is check that box and it would be up and running in less than an hour all over the world,” Psyonix VP of Publishing Jeremy Dunham memorably told Polygon about cross-platform play on the PS4.
The reality of Fortnite‘s brief “configuration error” allowing Xbox One and PS4 players to connect only goes to further prove that there are no remaining technical issues to be overcome here. While developers do have to deal with complications surrounding friends lists, invitations, and voice chat when tying the two networks together, no intractable compatibility issues prevent the servers from talking to each other. As Fortnite has inadvertently proven, the only problems keeping PlayStation and Xbox gamers apart are now political.
Fortnite devs inadvertently prove cross-console play is possible [Updated]
The release last month of the Better Together update for Minecraft brought together Minecraft players on most of the game’s many platforms: the Xbox One, Windows 10, mobile, and VR versions of the game now all use the same engine and can all play together without borders. Servers and content will be accessible from any Better Together platform. Microsoft has also announced that this version of the game will be coming to the Nintendo Switch, and it, too, will be able to join in the cross-platform play.
But one major platform is being left behind: PlayStation 4. Minecraft players on the PlayStation 4 will only be able to play with other PlayStation 4 users. Not because of any technical constraint, but because Sony won’t allow it.
Speaking to Gamespot, Xbox chief Phil Spencer said Sony regards platform lock-in as a way of driving sales and “that reason [for blocking cross-platform play] is not going away.” Spencer doesn’t hold out much hope for things changing, either: “I’m never going to call anything a lost cause, but I think some of the fundamental reasons and certain scenarios—they’re not really going away.”
In June, Sony execs insisted that the company has no “profound philosophical stance” against cross-platform play, and it has permitted play between the PC and PlayStation 4. But cross-console play is clearly a sticking point. While Microsoft isn’t the first developer to cite Sony’s refusal to allow cross-platform play—Rocket League developer Psyonix and Gwent developer CD Projekt have both blamed Sony for the limitation—this is the first time the company has itself fallen foul of Sony’s restrictions. Moreover, Spencer’s comments make clear that Sony’s desire to create lock-in appears to be its overwhelming concern.
Xbox chief says Sony won’t allow cross-platform Minecraft, probably never will
For the past several years, Mocchi Hajikura has been working on recreating the classic Studio Ghibli film Laputa: Castle In The Sky in Minecraft. His work is now finished.
Hajikura started uploading his Laputa recreations to YouTube in 2013.
In 2015, he created this clip to correspond with Laputa: Castle In The Sky’s Japanese television rebroadcast. You can see how his work had improved.
As Net Lab notes, he uploaded his most recent (and final efforts) for the film’s 2017 TV rebroadcast.
Previously, Kotaku posted a Laputa recreation, but Hajikura’s effort has to be the best one yet.
Years Later, The Laputa: Castle In The Sky’s Minecraft Recreation Is Done