Bethesda finally gave people who don't play digital card games a reason to care about The Elder Scrolls: Legends. The company's senior vice president of global marketing and communications, Pete Hines, said in a recent interview with Game Informer that it might not release the game on platforms that don't support cross-play. Genre aside, that could mean a game with "The Elder Scrolls" in the title doesn't hit the PlayStation 4.
Sony came under intense scrutiny in June after people discovered that playing Fortnite on the PlayStation 4 meant they couldn't play with the same account on Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. PS4 owners also couldn't play with people who owned those consoles, either, which effectively separated them from other console players. (The PS4 version supports cross-play with PC and mobile players but not Xbox or Switch players.)
Epic Games made it very clear that it wasn't the one stopping Epic accounts - which are used to play Fortnite as well as other games like Unreal Tournament - connected to a PS4 from being used on competitive systems. Sony initially evaded questions about its policies by bragging about how many PS4s it's sold, but as the complaints kept coming, the company said it was "looking at a lot of the possibilities" for cross-play.
It's not hard to understand why Fortnite players were annoyed by Sony's position. Fortnite is a free game, however, and creating a new account to play on the Xbox One or the Switch would really only involve a little bit of hassle and lack of access to in-game cosmetics. Hines told Game Informer that not having true cross-play support in the PS4 version of The Elder Scrolls: Legends would actually undermine Bethesda's efforts.
Hines explained that part of Bethesda's pitch for The Elder Scrolls: Legends is that it doesn't matter where you play. Switching between versions of the game for the PC, various consoles, on mobile devices isn't supposed to require you to assemble multiple decks with the cards you happen to get on each platform.
"The way the game works right now on Apple, Google, Steam, and Bethesda.net, it doesn't matter where you buy your stuff, if you play it on another platform that stuff is there," he said. It doesn't matter what platform you play on, you play against everyone else who is playing at that moment. There's no 'Oh, it's easier to control, or it has a better framerate on this system.' It's a strategy card game. It doesn't matter. [...] We continue to talk to all of our platform partners. But those [terms] are essentially non-negotiable. We can't be talking about one version of Legends, where you take your progress with you, and another version where you stay within that ecosystem or its walled off from everything else. That is counter to what the game has been about."
Raising the ire of developers like Epic and Bethesda probably isn't in any console maker's best interests. It's hard to overstate Fortnite's popularity, and series like "The Elder Scrolls" and "Fallout" have particularly devoted fans. Developers seem to have finally embraced the fact that cross-play is in players' best interests, and even Microsoft and Nintendo have started to agree that cross-play should finally exist.
People want to play their games on every device they own and with everyone they know. There's a difference between wanting to have platform exclusives--though many people would probably kill to play a "Super Mario" game on a non-Nintendo platform--and hindering attempts to bridge the gap between gaming devices.