Compounding the issue is the fact that "Fortnite" accounts tied to all other platforms — from the Xbox One to the Nintendo Switch to iPhone and PC/Mac — can be used interchangeably.
For example: You can buy the game's "Battle Pass" on Xbox One, complete a bunch of challenges, then continue completing challenges from the Nintendo Switch (or the iPhone, or a computer). Like "Minecraft" and "Rocket League" before it, "Fortnite" is the latest example of truly "cross-platform" games — where one account is carried across all platforms, from smartphone to home console to PC, with progress and stats and in-game purchases included.
"Fortnite" can even be played across competing platforms — except for Sony's PlayStation 4, which doesn't work with the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch versions of the game. Thus, #BlameSony.
It's the latest example of Sony taking an exclusionary stance with gaming on the PlayStation 4 that's out of step with what consumers expect in 2018.
Why lock PlayStation 4 "Fortnite" players to the PS4? "The stated reason internally for this was money."
"Fortnite" is a free game.
The main way Epic Games makes money on "Fortnite" is by selling in-game stuff, like the $10 Battle Pass. Every time Epic Games sells a Battle Pass through the PlayStation 4 version of "Fortnite," Sony takes a cut of that sale. If you buy a Battle Pass in "Fortnite" on Xbox One, Microsoft takes a cut of that sale. So if you buy a Battle Pass on Xbox One, then play the game on PlayStation 4 with that Battle Pass, you've given Sony's competitor money for something that you're using on PlayStation 4.
And Sony, apparently, isn't too big on that idea.
"When I was at Sony, the stated reason internally for this was money," Amazon Game Studios head John Smedley said on Twitter this week. Smedley worked at Sony for 13 years as the head of Sony Online Entertainment; he left the company in 2015. "They didn't like someone buying something on an Xbox and it being used on a PlayStation," he said.
In 2017, Microsoft opened "Minecraft" to cross-platform play. That changed everything.
This all started with "Minecraft."
The Microsoft-owned blockbuster is available on pretty much everything that plays games, from consoles to phones to handhelds. It wasn't always owned by Microsoft, but Microsoft made a commitment to maintain the game on all platforms. A new version of the game even launched on Nintendo's Switch console last year.
Microsoft — maker of the Xbox One, and direct competitor to Sony's PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's Switch — publishes "Minecraft" on Sony and Nintendo (and Apple and Google) platforms in addition to its own Xbox consoles.
More importantly, even though Microsoft owns "Minecraft," the game can be played across competing devices. "Minecraft" players on Xbox One can join up with players on iPhone, Nintendo Switch, Android, and PC/Mac — even if you're playing in a virtual reality headset! But Xbox One can't play with PlayStation 4, and vice versa. Microsoft wants the PlayStation 4 version of the game to work with the others, but talks have thus far resulted in nothing.
"Minecraft" was the first of several major games to offer cross-platform play; "Rocket League" and "Fortnite" followed soon after. It's telling that some of the biggest games in the world are the forerunners of cross-platform play.
Microsoft's move with "Minecraft" was a small change with huge implications. Player expectations changed forever.
Why don't more online multiplayer games function across platforms? If "Overwatch" is the same game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, why can't I play with a friend?
The answer is obvious, if illogical: Because Sony and Microsoft are competitors. Of course their consoles don't work with each other. It's a basic principle that goes back to the original Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System.
But it's 2018. If iPhone and Android users are able to play games together, why aren't Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 users able to play games together?
That question has come into stark relief with the launch of "Fortnite" on Nintendo's Switch.
"I just get stuck in who this is helping," Microsoft head Phil Spencer told me in an interview last week. "Say you're not into gaming, and it's your kid's birthday. You buy them a console. I buy my kid a console. We happen to buy consoles of different colors — you bought the blue one, I bought the green one. Now those kids want to play a game together and they can't because their parents bought different consoles. I don't know who that helps."