“Minecraft” is one of the most popular, most-played games in the world for two main reasons:
It’s really, really good. It’s available on everything.
You can play “Minecraft” on your iPhone or your Xbox One, and it’s basically the same game.
Even though Microsoft owns and operates the Xbox brand, it continues to support “Minecraft” (which it owns) as a multi-platform game. It’s a striking anomaly among Microsoft’s portfolio of first-party games – “Halo,” for instance, only comes to Microsoft-owned platforms (Xbox One and Windows 10). The same could be said for the “Forza Motorsport” franchise, “Gears of War,” and many others.
Microsoft’s next move with “Minecraft” is even more dramatic: An update coming to “Minecraft” this year unifies all versions of the game – if you’re playing on an iPhone, you can team up with a friend on Xbox One and craft a world together. A friend playing the game in an Oculus Rift VR headset on a PC could jump in, and another friend on the Nintendo Switch could too.
It’s hard to overstate how big of a deal that is, which is why it’s so unfortunate that a single company refuses to participate: Sony.
Though “Minecraft” on the PlayStation 4 is essentially the same game, you’ll only be able to play “Minecraft” on PlayStation 4 with other PlayStation 4 owners. And it’s Sony that’s stopping that from happening.
“You should probably ask them,” Xbox leader Phil Spencer said in an interview with Business Insider in June, when asked about why the PlayStation 4 version doesn’t work with other platforms. He added, “I don’t mean that to be snippy. We’ve shown our intent on what we want to go do. And I’d love for ‘Minecraft’ players to get to play ‘Minecraft.'”
In a FAQ published on Monday, Microsoft issued another volley at Sony over the issue:
“Q: Will the new version be available on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch?
A: While we are thrilled to be able to confirm the new version of Minecraft is coming to Nintendo Switch, we are still in discussions with Sony about PlayStation and have nothing to confirm. We would love to work with Sony to bring players on PlayStation 4 into this ecosystem as well.”
It’s notable that Microsoft included the Nintendo Switch question alongside the PlayStation 4 question. Nintendo is a notoriously closed company, only rarely working with its direct competition. In the case of “Minecraft,” though, Nintendo smartly embraced a partnership with Microsoft. Sony’s choice to opt-out is all the more glaring when directly compared with Nintendo’s surprising openness.
With over 63 million PlayStation 4 consoles in the wild, “Minecraft” players on PS4 aren’t likely to have problems finding people to play with. But Sony’s not endearing itself to fans of the game who want to play on Sony’s console, and the company looks bad for not embracing what appears to be a solely consumer-friendly move on Microsoft’s part.