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.