Sony has finally conceded to demands from gamers to open up the Playstation 4 (PS4) to cross-platform play for the popular computer game Fortnite.
The plan was announced by Sony today with an open beta that will bring cross-platform play to Fortnite across PS4, PC (both Windows and Mac), Xbox, Nintendo Switch and even iOS and Android.
It comes despite Sony president Kenichiro Yoshida claiming earlier this month that "our way of thinking is always that Playstation is the best place to play". He added: "Fortnite, I believe, partnered with PlayStation 4 is the best experience for users. That's our belief."
As a result, not only have PS4 users been barred from playing with, and against, players of the same games on other platforms, but have also found their Fortnite accounts locked to the PS4, further aggravating players.
Among other things, the open beta will test the user experience, which presumably will encompass how gamers using controllers fair against gamers using a mouse and keyboard. Keyboard and mouse gamers are considered to enjoy a big advantage in terms of speed and accuracy over gamers bearing controllers.
While Fortnite can be played on PS4 with keyboard and mouse, Microsoft's Xbox has typically blocked players from plugging in the devices, preferring to enforce a level playing field with controllers.
But Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, is testing technology that would match players according to the input device they are using: players using controllers on PC, Xbox and PS4 being matched against each other, while mouse-and-keyboard gamers on PC and PS4 would be matched against themselves.
The concession comes despite Sony jealously guarding its ‘walled garden' PS4 from rivals, while games companies, who increasingly see their future in online multiplayer games (and ‘live services'), need their games to be able to run across multiple platforms in order to increase the pool of players who can be matched.
It isn't just Fortnite that has been affected by Sony's policy.
Rocket League - which has more than 50 million players on all platforms - and Minecraft players have also been similarly locked in. It is also rumoured that Fortnite's main rival in the Battle Royale genre, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) could also be coming to PS4. With daily player numbers on PC declining from 3.2 million earlier this year to around 1.2 million, it would benefit from a fresh infusion of players.
PUBG launched under Microsoft's Xbox Game Review program in December 2017, enjoying a full launch in September. While exclusive to the Xbox, that period of exclusivity may be limited, enabling the company behind PUBG to port the game to PS4 when that period draws to a close.
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