Bethesda’s VP of marketing said over the weekend that the developer intends for The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Bethesda’s card game, to be fully cross-play, with progress carrying over no matter what system people play it on when it eventually releases on consoles. While not mentioning Sony specifically, the message feels aimed at increasing pressure on the only major video game platform to currently not support support cross-play.
“[The Elder Scrolls: Legends] is a strategy card game that encompasses both single and multiplayer,” Pete Hines told Game Informer in an interview at QuakeCon on Saturday. “It is both cross-platform play and cross-platform progress.” He went on to elaborate that these features were the company’s intention but stopped just short of saying Bethesda would refuse to port the card game to a system that didn’t play with others like the PS4:
“It is our intention in order for the game to come out, it has to be those things [cross-play] on any system. We cannot have a game that works one way across everywhere else except for on this one thing. 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. 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.”
Hines added that cross-play and shared progress were “essentially non-negotiable,” which certainly sounds like another way of saying the ball’s in Sony’s court as to whether it wants Elder Scrolls: Legends on PS4 to happen or not. Bethesda did not respond to a request by Kotaku to confirm whether the PS4 version of the game not having cross-play would indeed be a deal breaker. It’s not the first time the company has brought up the issue: earlier in the summer, director Todd Howard blamed Sony for the fact that Fallout 76, Bethesda’s first big online multiplayer game, wouldn’t be cross-play. “We’d really love that but right now we can’t,” he told the German gaming outlet GameStar in late June. “Sony is not as helpful as everyone would like.”
The debate over PS4’s lack of cross-play hit a fever pitch after Fortnite Battle Royale was released on Nintendo Switch and PS4 players realized they’d have to make brand new accounts and leave behind all of their most coveted in-game items in order to play it on the Switch. That was just the latest in a series of games where players on PS4 were restricted from interacting with players on every other system. Around the same time, Microsoft and Nintendo made an ad promoting Minecraft on Switch and the fact that players from every version of the game could play together—except those on PS4.
At this year’s E3 Bethesda announced Legends, which came out on PC and smartphones last year, would be making the leap to home consoles sometime before the end of 2018, which is likely why the company is adding its voice to the support for cross-play and, more importantly, shared progress. With Fortnite, players had to leave behind cosmetics, but in card games it’s the very tools of play that get locked when one platform doesn’t play nice with the others. To avoid forcing existing players to make seperate accounts for the console version and have to start over from scratch, and to make it possible for them to play against people on PC and smartphone, Bethesda would need unified accounts to carry over no matter what platform a person was on. It’s a feat no one else in the card game market has so far managed, though not for lack of wanting it.
In 2016, CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher series, told IGN all it needed to make its Witcher card game Gwent cross-play was a “green light from Sony.” The game is currently on PS4 and Xbox One in beta, but the two versions are seperate. I found this out the hard way when I started playing on PS4 and realized my library of cards from the PC version couldn’t be carried over, unlike on Xbox One. Not for any technical reason though: as CD Projekt Red business developer Rafal Jaki later confirmed in Gwent’s forums, it was a lack of agreement between the console manufacturers, namely Sony, that led to the splintering of the player-base. “Technically we can link all account and have cross buy - but this needs to approved by platform holders and they did not agree to let us do that,” he wrote. “Sadly we cannot do much about that.” When asked by Kotaku if Gwent could have cross-play and shared progress across every platform sometime in the future, a spokesperson for CD Projekt Red declined to comment.
It’s a particularly depressing prospect for me, though not a completely surprising one, when I look at how much bigger my Gwent library has grown on PS4 than PC. I’ve essentially agreed to play the game on a small island without having even realized it. Assuming the game doesn’t get cross-play or shared progress on PS4 in the future, I won’t only be missing out on the larger player-base elsewhere, but the ease of playing the game anywhere at anytime if it eventually comes to mobile.
As a result, it makes sense that Bethesda would try to put pressure on Sony publically to support cross-play. I’ve spent the last month getting really into Legends, a decent and unique card game whether you’re a fan of The Elder Scrolls universe or not. I can’t imagine having to start my collection and single-player campaign progress all over again on PS4, and I’m probably not alone.