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Sony's Cross-Play Is Another Nail in Exclusivity's Coffin

We all wanted it, some have had it already, and now we've all got it. After constantly pushing back on the idea and gating it off to only some developers for some time, Sony has finally allowed all developers to utilize cross-play in its PlayStation 4 titles. For those unaware, cross-play refers to a video game that allows you to play with others across other consoles and platforms. For example, if you enjoy playing Fortnite on PC and your friend has Fortnite on Xbox One, you can still play with each other.

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With Sony now on board, all of the major console manufacturers are now working together with cross-play. They've heard gamers and the message is clear: This is something gamers have been pushing for for some time. They are tired of being segregated by the consoles they purchase. In a world where we are more connected to each other more than ever before, it doesn't make sense to be separated by brands.

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Publishers are taking notice and, provided they don't harass the point, they will benefit from cross-play as well. With cross-play, the player bases are larger than it would be with three separate versions. For multiplayer games with additional content being added, that also means a bigger base to sell that content to. Considering that additional content is easier and less costly for developers to make, it's more profitable for less work.

This is bad for exclusives because what used to be the edge to drive consumers to a certain platform is now more of a dead game that many can't get their hands on. Just look at the many Xbox One exclusives that have disappointing sales numbers, like Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves, and Sunset Overdrive. Even the Switch, with all of its success, hasn't surpassed the PlayStation 4, despite having arguably the best exclusives of the generation. The concept of having a certain special something that your competition doesn't have isn't enough of a pull sales-wise to make it extremely profitable.

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The opposite is actually true. The games that allow more interaction with others are the ones that have seen the most success. The top-selling games are not titles like single-player experiences, but multiplayer titles. Sure, there will always be a fairly large demographic for single-player titles and shouldn't be ignored, but gamers want to play one to three games at one time and little more. If you want to profit off of that one title multiple times, cross-play will allow for people to play and urge others to join.

With cross-play plausibly being the standard in the next generation, exclusives won't make much sense anymore. Why only sell this one product to one subset of the consumer base when you could sell it to more? When it comes to first-party development, that is still the name of the game, but third party development doesn't benefit from exclusives anymore. The gains from a larger player base don't add up to the gains you would get from a title everyone has access to.

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