Today, Nintendo announced during its E3 press conference that Epic Games’ smash hit Fortnite would be coming to the Switch console. Not only that, but the game is arriving today at 1PM ET on the Switch digital store. Given that Fortnite is a free-to-play game that is played entirely online and supports accounts syncing, that raises some interesting questions about whether Switch players will be able to cross-play with those on other platforms.
When asked, Epic Games PR representative Nick Chester confirmed on Twitter that the Switch version of Fortnite will support cross-play with Xbox One, PC, Mac, and mobile. Basically, you’ll be able to play with everyone but PlayStation 4 players. That aligns with past cross-play implementations between Xbox One, PS4, PC, and mobile, with Sony blocking other console platforms from playing with its own. You can cross-play between PS4, mobile, and PC.
Xbox One, PC, Mac, and mobile.
— Snake Chester (@nickchester) June 12, 2018
Unfortunately, this also suggests that PS4 players of Fortnite won’t be able to login to their Epic accounts on the Switch, meaning you won’t be able to have any weekly progress carry over or gain access to any of your skins or emotes. This is because your Epic account is tied up with your PSN username in most cases. For instance, you can’t login to an Epic account tied to PSN on the Xbox One version of Fortnite, and it sounds like the same will be true for the Switch. Epic declined to comment, but we’ve reached out to Sony for more clarification on the subject.
If you’re wondering why this is happening and what advantage it may provide Sony, it involves understanding how console exclusivity works. Basically, Sony sees its current lead in the console race as a competitive advantage to exploit, and any amount of leeway it sees as an existential threat to the PlayStation platform’s dominance.
Allowing players of multi-platform games who are using an Xbox One — or in this case a Nintendo Switch — to play with PS4 players undermines the reason the Sony ecosystem is so strong. Sony sells more consoles because it knows it has the largest player base, and those consumers in the market for a new home console are more likely to pick Sony’s if they know it’s the platform of choice for their friends and if it remains the only way to team up with their friends on games like Fortnite. This is why Sony blocked Fortnite cross-play with the Xbox One earlier this year, and why the company blocked Rocket League and Minecraft PS4-Xbox One cross-play last year.
Last year, Sony gave a poor excuse for this strategy, dressing up its tactics as pro-consumer and even pro-children. Jim Ryan, head of global sales and marketing for PlayStation, told Eurogamer, “Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it’s something we have to think about very carefully.” Since Sony was called out for that statement, Microsoft has become increasingly agreeable on the subject of cross-platform console play, releasing strategic public statements about how open it is to reaching some sort of compromise.
“We’ve worked closely with Nintendo to allow cross-network play between Xbox One and Switch and our offer to do the same with PlayStation players still holds,” a Microsoft spokesperson said back in March, when the initial Fortnite cross-play debacle began. (That said, if Microsoft were winning the console race, it have be doing the same as Sony.)
Of course, you could always just switch over to PC, where you have more freedom to login and play on any other platform. But for those players who started playing Fortnite on PSN and have tied that account and all of their in-app purchases to Epic’s system — like yours truly — you’re out of luck.