Is Cross-Platform Play the future of online gaming, is it the next evolution? Well, that’s really a loaded question with an equally loaded answer. At first glance, my reflex answer would be yes. I mean, why not? But why isn’t the answer clear-cut and obvious? Glad you asked that.
For those who aren’t well-informed, cross-play involves connecting two or more gaming platforms together for online gaming. We’ve already seen this happen in the past with several popular games; Street Fighter V, Rocket League, Gears of War 4, Final Fantasy XIV, and the more recent addition, Minecraft.
But there are also some real negatives here and to be honest, it’s genre-specific. Those games would be first-person shooters and damn is it a huge disadvantage for one particular platform – consoles. Let’s face it, I’d love to play some Overwatch on the PC, with either Xbox One or PlayStation 4 games. There’s just one issue however, I’d slaughter them. Heck, my son could slaughter, due to a huge difference in controls. Console gamers simply don’t have access to ultra-precise mice or keyboards. Sure there are adaptors that enable this, but those are hit and miss, as the game doesn’t officially support them. On the opposite side, a gamepad simply can’t match up against devices that are constantly being improved. Constantly being upgraded to give PC gamers advantages in, you guessed it, the first-person gaming arena.
Throwing console games against PC gamers in an FPS game would be a really bad idea. Now, I’m not saying this as I am primarily a PC gamer, but just stating facts. There are even games that have attempted this and only after some lengthy testing and only implemented in a limited capacity. Microsoft’s Gears of War 4 is a great example of this. While they tested cross-platform play between the Xbox One and PC, they ultimately settled on allowing the two platforms to play together. However, this wasn’t without compromise. Sure, they can each play with each other via Horde Mode, but competitively, the Xbox One players hold all the keys. There’s an option for Xbox One gamers, that lets them decide if they want to play with Windows 10 gamers or not. Let’s just say that this option doesn’t get used much.
A PC vs console match would end up with some really upset gamers. Which would result in some really nasty messages being sent across forums, hurt feelings, and more than likely an internet imploding flame war? So, no, I really don’t think we’ll ever see any sort of cross-platform play for FPS titles. Outside of that, however, everything is fair game. So why aren’t we seeing more of this?
That’s a good question.
Most recently, Microsoft announced at E3 2017, that they would be extending cross-platform play for Minecraft, across multiple platforms. Xbox One, Windows 10, iOS, Android, and even the Nintendo Switch. What’s that? Where’s the PlayStation? Funny you should say. See, Sony opted out of this, just like they did for EA’s Access, but for other reasons. Sony’s Jim Ryan stated they did this as they “got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base.” In other words, he doesn’t feel that Microsoft can keep the PS4’s Minecraft user base safe. Now, I won’t go into details, but if I was Sony and I wanted to keep my gamers safe, I’d take a huge step back and look at the very toxic communities that frequent their games. I need only mention Call of Duty or Overwatch, both of which have more than a few toxic gamers.
Now, before people start pointing fingers at Sony, they do make a valid point. If there was a game that supported the PS4, Xbox One, and PC, who would be responsible for keeping the peace? For example, what would happen if you were in a match with all three platforms and there were multiple griefers? Who would they be reported to? Would you even know what system they were on? How would they be punished? I’d wager that’s something that would take some time to get right and something that many haven’t even thought about. It definitely makes one wonder if there are other implications that would prevent cross-platform across all systems from happening.
Still, I feel the positives outweigh the negatives. Speaking about the positives, let’s discuss those. First up is the player-base. We’ve all come across games that we enjoy, but have seen a shortage of players showing up online. Implementing cross-platform would introduce more players for that and hopefully keep that game relevant, online at least. Another positive and perhaps the main reason why we don’t see more cross-platform titles is accessibility. Imagine a game coming out for all platforms, removing the need for you to purchase an Xbox One, PS4, Switch, or PC. A game that you could play on your existing platform and play online with others on a different system. Surely that would cut into the profits of hardware sales. And while no one has come out and stated this directly, I’m sure this is a huge reason to prevent cross-platform play from happening.
As a gamer, you wouldn’t think that implementing this would be a huge deal, especially since we don’t see all the interworkings on what makes this all work. For us, all we want to do is to play the games, online and with friends. We don’t think about the underlying issues or consequences and leave that up to the developers, the poor saps that have the unfortunate job of making this all work. Still, in the end, I really believe that cross-platform gaming is the future of online gaming. And for better or worse, I’m sure we’ll see more of it as those negatives are addressed and the bigwigs at these companies realize that cross-platform gaming only serves to bridge the gap between online gamers and even selling a few extra copies of games as well.