If you’re a Fortnite fan that was disappointed that you couldn’t do cross-play with Xbox Battle Royale players, then good news: Epic just announced that the Xbox version is getting cross-play and cross-progression with the PC and mobile versions of the game. There was some thought that politics got in the way, but Epic made special note to say that wasn’t the case:
Contrary to what may have been implied, Microsoft has long been a leading voice in supporting cross-platform play, connecting players across PC, mobile and all consoles. We’ve been working together with them over the last several months to make this possible, and will bring this functionality to Fortnite players on Xbox right along with other platforms.
Now, there is one thing to note: it doesn’t appear that cross-play will work between PS4 and Xbox. Specifically, Epic’s news says “between Xbox One, PC, Mac, iOS and (in the next few months) Android." Sony and Microsoft historically have never allowed cross-play between systems, even though it should be quite apparent that there is not a significant technical hurdle to make this happen.
We can look at another significant title with cross-play, Rocket League, and see two things. One, Psyonix’s Jeremy Dunham says that adding PS4 cross-play to the game is “literally something we could do with a push of a button, metaphorically. In reality it’s a web page with a checkbox on it. All we have to do is check that box and it would be up and running in less than an hour all over the world. That’s all we need to do.” So it’s strange that Sony wouldn’t allow cross-play…but would for Fortnite? Perhaps the need to use an Epic Games account for cross-progression was the stopping point for Microsoft, which has its own ecosystem between Windows 10 and Xbox to support.
So cross-platform play is purely a political issue. And it’s quite possible that the announcement of the mobile versions of Fortnite pressured Microsoft into finally allowing cross-platform play. While Rocket League is a big game, it’s a few years old, and the furor over the Switch version and cross-platform play passed. But Fortnite is the hottest game on the planet right now, and not having cross-play got Microsoft a lot of bad press, and possibly is bad for business if it convinces people to go play another version to play with their friends.
So, once Fortnite launches on mobile, you’ll be able to play with just about anyone, until Sony and Microsoft finally get together, realize they should let people play against each other regardless of which platform they’re on. Interestingly, the Fortnite Xbox cross-platform announcement also contains this note about mobile getting the “same weekly updates." Certainly, nobody would be able to reasonably fault Epic for perhaps having the iOS version on Monday not be completely up to date with the other builds if there is still work to be done to make Fortnite work well on iOS. But what if on Monday, testers are playing build 3.2 on their iPhones and iPads? That would be quite the impressive accomplishment. Fortnite: Battle Royale for iPhone and iPad testing opens on Monday, March 12th.