What do you take into consideration before committing to a certain gaming platform? Do you prefer to have a PC gaming rig that can always offer the highest graphics, power, framerates, customization and mod support, providing it is maintained and updated accordingly? Does PlayStation exclusive Uncharted 4 or Xbox’s Halo games translate to a loyalty to the corresponding platform? There are a lot of factors that gamers take into consideration when choosing what gaming system to dedicate themselves to. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the financial freedom to get both, after all.
While the 'fanboys' may arguably be a dying breed, many active players still have their preferred platform to game on. Certain exclusive titles may still hold persuasive weight and so may the type of virtual reality headset available for each, but one key factor that often serves as the ultimate reason whether or not to buy a system (or just certain games for that platform) is: which one will allow you to play online with your friends? While you may prefer collecting trophies on Sony’s system, all your friends might be racking up achievement points on their Xbox. That could all be about to change as Microsoft wants to finally allow cross-platform multiplayer.
Microsoft has issued an open invitation to developers to make gamers be able to play online against everyone, regardless of whether they are playing the title on Xbox One, PS4 or a PC. Nothing is set in stone but the announcement came yesterday on the official Xbox news site from Chris Charla, Director of ID@Xbox, in discussing new announcements related to feedback from developers. The potential for maximizing the multiplayer for titles like Call of Duty, Destiny and Battlefront to sports titles and everything in between is more than appealing and something our staff has said should have been part of the current generation of consoles since the beginning.
Microsoft is already trying to combine both Xbox and Windows 10 platforms as a unified gaming platform, with cross-buy options for upcoming releases like Quantum Break but this takes it one step further. This is not necessarily a completely new initiative since Microsoft supported PC and Xbox 360 cross-platform play on Shadowrun years ago, and some games like Rocket League include the ability to play matches against PC players as well as console. But that doesn’t include non-Microsoft networks like Steam on PC.
In fact, Microsoft has notoriously been rigid and against cross-platform play historically which is why Portal 2 supported cross-platform play between PC and PS3, but on Xbox 360, players could only play with other Xbox players cooperatively because Microsoft wouldn't open their closed platform up. The ability to challenge someone who has a completely different game console than you have has the potential to be massive, especially given the difference sizes of player bases between PS4 and Xbox One and the issues of certain game publishers signing exclusivity deals with one platform or the other. If everyone could play with everyone else who has the same game, regardless of platform, the shelf-life of online games and viability of DLC plans for game publishers could skyrocket. It will be down to companies like Sony and game developers to ensure this isn't too good to be true though. So far Microsoft has only issued that they are open to making it happen. Sony will have to agree.
Cross-network multiplayer and unifying the PC and console as a complete Xbox package is not the only game-changing trick that Microsoft is plotting. When the Xbox One was originally announced, there was a fierce backlash against the idea of needing a constant internet connection for it to function. There are a number of related features that Microsoft is now trying to reintroduce that may have been forgotten. One that they are looking into is the ability to share games bought digitally. Game Informer met up with head of programming Mike Ybarra, who explained the approach they are taking with it:
Steam has a great family plan right now. We’re looking at both from a Windows standpoint – well, what’s our policy of the Windows Store? How many people can play concurrent? How do you share? We’re going to merge those two topologies soon so that a whole new model for how you share games across that will be in place. We’re actively working on that now to try to figure [it out], but we want to get to a much simpler model and potentially one that lets you do more… have a little bit more freedom in what you can and can’t do.
Could we soon be playing multiplayer games across Xbox One, PS4 and PC? Will Microsoft's massive shifts in strategy towards being more consumer-friendly mean all Xbox exclusives will come to PC as well? Will this help Windows 10 store and Xbox One console purchases? It could resolve a lot of issues when it comes to deciding what platform you need to buy The Division for - and if they also find a way to combine PSN and Xbox Live friend lists then the era of the 'fanboy' may truly be over for good.