Imagine being able to play your favourite Xbox games like Call of Duty and FIFA against your mates who are on their computer or using a different console like a PS4.
That’s exactly what Microsoft wants to make happen – by opening up its Xbox Live network to developers making games for PCs and other consoles.
The majority of games these days have some sort of multiplayer mode built-in, and some are even at their best when played with other people. Call of Duty, for example, is now primarily a multiplayer experience, with the single player campaign being a short, if explosive, taste of what’s to come.
Microsoft’s announcement that they will be opening up Xbox Live to allow for cross-platform gaming comes as something of a surprise. This is one of the first times multi-platform support has been offered on such a wide scale, with previous forays into this sort of thing limited to a select group of titles.
This new move would mean that gamers would be able to challenge players from the rival system on any compatible title. It remains to be seen how well the connections between the systems will perform or if there will be any compatibility issues.
What is cross-platform play?
If you’re an Xbox gamer, this means you’ll be able to play compatible games with other players using a PC over the Xbox Live network – and possibly other consoles in the not-too-distant future.
Right now Microsoft’s starting by enabling cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10 games that use Xbox Live – although you’ll have the option to stick with other Xbox Live gamers, if you prefer.
One of the first games to take advantage of it is Psyonix’s fast-paced football tournament, Rocket League. It’s been available on Windows since 2015 and Xbox since the beginning of the year – but this is the first time players from both platforms will be able to challenge each other to a match.
Play on other consoles
Even more excitingly, Microsoft has announced it’s also opening cross-platform play up to other consoles.
With it, you’d be able to play against friends on different consoles on a special multiplayer network – with the potential for games like Call of Duty that are available on several different consoles to take advantage of it.
However, at this stage it’s only an invite from Microsoft, so game developers will need to get on board to make it happen.
Sony, for example, has yet to definitively agree to this, but they’ve given strong indications they’re keen on the idea. This is too much of a good chance to add value to their console owners. Coupled with Microsoft’s recent statements about the Xbox integrating into the “Unified Windows Platform”, it may signal a change in the way Microsoft inhabits the console world.
Why has Microsoft enabled it now?
Despite the fact that Xbox Live has been around since 2002, and the likes of PlayStation Network for a similar time – we’re only just seeing the possibility for cross-network compatibility.
There are a few reasons why. In practical terms, until recently it’s been pretty difficult to create an online multiplayer mode that can handle the hardware of two different systems and still give you smooth gameplay.
Perhaps most importantly though, players want it – as Psyonix, the studio that makes Rocket League put it: ‘Cross-network play has been the number one most requested feature our community has asked for since Rocket League was first announced on Xbox One’.
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