Yesterday we reported that Sony would not be joining Microsoft and Nintendo in creating cross-play gaming experiences. The company's Jim Ryan insinuated that giving up control of its network would be unwise and that services like Xbox Live could be unsafe. It has taken less than a day for Xbox's head Phil Spencer to issue a response.
The important thing here is that Ryan did not blatantly say that Xbox Live is unsafe. Nor did he say Sony would forever be against cross-play. Let's look at his words:
“It's certainly not a profound philosophical stance we have against this. We've done it in the past. We're always open to conversations with any developer or publisher who wants to talk about it. Unfortunately it's a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I'm not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling.
We've got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Minecraft – the demographic playing that, you know as well as I do, it's all ages but it's also very young. We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it's something we have to think about very carefully.”
Naturally, there is a lot of corporate speak here. However, Ryan is clearly saying Sony is unwilling to relinquish control of its users to other networks. First, and foremost, it just reads like the company does not want to share.
Of course, he uses a terrible example of hinting that these external networks (Xbox Live for example) would put PSN's child users at risk. This is suggesting Sony is doing a service by protecting its customers, when the reality is the company just does not see the value in cross-play at the moment. It has nothing to do with customers.
It is frankly a ridiculous insinuation considering he was talking specifically about Minecraft. If Ryan had been talking about cross-play in general, it is a worthy debate to have. How companies manage their users going across platforms on PC and mobile will be a challenge. However, Microsoft controls Minecraft and Xbox Live is probably safer and more secure than Sony's PlayStation Network.
As one would expect, Microsoft has not taken kindly to Ryan's clumsy words. Phil Spencer hit back in an interview with Giant Bomb:
“I would love for players on all platforms to stay connected…the fact that somebody would kind of make an assertion that somehow we're not keeping Minecraft players safe…I found—not only from a Microsoft perspective—but from a game industry perspective…I don't know why that has to become the dialogue. That doesn't seem healthy for anyone…I found the whole discussion with the safety around our game and somehow we wouldn't take that as a top priority is…We would never put Minecraft in a place where we felt we aren't keeping our players safe.”
Ryan has had a poor E3 2017. He previously suggested developers would not embrace Xbox One X. He cited Sony's own struggles in getting dev's to build for PlayStation 3, which was more powerful than Xbox 360.
Ignoring the fact the PS3 was a nightmare to program for, he said developers will always build to the lowest common denominator. Early signs (43 games at the Xbox One X launch) suggest Ryan may be left with egg on his face.