The fighting game community is a passionate one: It takes hours to master a technique, and more hours to make it work in a match. The genre has never seen the player counts that others enjoy because of the sheer dedication required (and lack of competent online features in some cases). The hardcore clamor for system features and improvements like good netcode, lobby options and training modes. Then came along the term “crossplay”.
At its most basic, “crossplay” implies anybody can play online with anybody else regardless of platform. You’ll see this currently in Fortnite and Rocket League, where even the humble iPhone user can partner up with or compete against every console and PC player. The notion of crossplay was quickly demanded by the fighting game community. After all, it makes sense that small but enthusiastic communities would take advantage of playing with anyone online. It makes less sense for games like Fortnite and Rocket League to enjoy it, given the massive player numbers across all platforms. Yet, two strange examples existed for a time: Street Fighter V and Microsoft’s rebooted Killer Instinct.
Street Fighter V notably skipped out on Xbox and never returned, so only PC and PS4 users can play with each other. Killer Instinct meanwhile was developed by Microsoft’s studios and understandably exclusive on Xbox One and Windows 10. While the developers of Killer Instinct implemented crossplay before anyone even asked, Capcom’s third-party status stood firmly in Sony’s camp. Because of Street Fighter’s immense popularity and professional circuit support, players and peripheral vendors alike jumped ship.
This behavior indicates that Sony is intentionally corralling Capcom to sell systems. But what of other developers? Two recent games outline the true policy of Sony: No outsiders welcome. These games are Power Rangers: Battle For the Grid and upcoming Fantasy Strike, two indie fighting games that implement crossplay.
— Shib (@shiburizu) July 26, 2019
Indies Lead the Charge in Crossplay
Battle For the Grid added crossplay with their most recent patch, thanks to a system that developer nWay Games has titled “nWayPlay”. The system works the same as your Epic Games account: Verify an email address and receive a unique tag that works on any system. Crossplay works splendidly across Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, but PlayStation users are left out. In fact, nWay’s Senior Product Manager told Dualshockers they’d “love” to enable it. But they simply cannot, and nWay Games has enough of a track record to know they’re not lacking the skill to do so. A game that launched this month and has run into the same roadblock is Fantasy Strike. The indie fighting game with an emphasis on accessibility has made a very nice graphic explaining their crossplay rules:
It doesn’t get any simpler than that. PlayStation 4 players can play against Steam users, but that’s as far as they go. This model is in line with Street Fighter V, even though Fantasy Strike implements a crossplay identifier called FantasyTags. Developer Sirlin Games comments on restrictions for PS4 in their crossplay FAQ:
The only limitation on these things is Sony’s approval. If Sony changes their mind on these things, we will be happy and eager to support them. At this time, we are not allowed to do them though.
Sony ultimately singles out games they think deserve crossplay. It’s disappointing that developers like nWay and Sirlin lead the efforts to develop fighting games systems worth enjoying, only for PlayStation users to be left out. Sony’s nitpicking has a name though, as Rocket League describes Sony’s crossplay efforts as the “PlayStation Cross-Play Beta program” from their announcement when the feature rolled out. This name has only been passed around in press releases for Fortnite and Rocket League though, so there’s really not evidence that there’s a “program” working internally at Sony. Frankly, there doesn’t need to be one if every other platform is already on board.