Cross-console multiplayer may be a lost cause

Cross-platform multiplayer is the dream. In video game utopia, we’d all just be able to play the games we wanted, with the people we wanted, no matter their choice in platform. For same games and systems, that’s already happening. Rocket League lets PC players play with Xbox One players and PlayStation players – but won’t let PS4 and Xbox One players play together. Minecraft lets PC, Xbox One, and Switch players all play together, but PlayStation 4 owners are stuck in their walled garden.

Most of the reticence regarding cross-platform console play comes from Sony. They say they want to keep their network safe for children, but it probably stems more from them being the market leader at the moment, and wanting to keep that position. Microsoft, conversely, is happy to have the networks intermingle – but they’re not in the dominant position, so that’s understandable too.

But will it ever happen? Microsoft’s Xboss isn’t sure. Speaking to Gamespot at the Brasil Games Show, Phil spencer said that the talks were happening, but they never seem to go anywhere.

“We talk to Sony all the time. With Minecraft on PlayStation, we have to be one of the biggest games on their platform in terms of sales and gameplay,” Spencer said. “Same with Nintendo. The relationship with Nintendo on this front has been strong. They’ve been great supporters and we continue to collaborate with them. But I think Sony’s view is different. They should talk about what their view is…”

The prospect could be a lost cause, but Spencer doesn’t want to believe it’s quite set in stone.

“I have a real struggle making comments about their motivation or timelines. I know there is a certain view that says if my friends have this console, they can’t play with people who buy another console. That’s a reason they go buy my console,” he said. “That reason is not going to go away. So we’re putting Minecraft out there as one of the biggest games on any platform and allowing people to play together regardless of what device they bought. I don’t think everybody is taking that same approach to the ecosystem. So I’m never going to call anything a lost cause but I think some of the fundamental reasons and certain scenarios, they’re not really going away. So I don’t know what would change.”

The thing with cross-platform play is that it really helps games stay relevant for longer. The smaller player bases across all of the platforms could play together, making those times where players are sat in queues a thing of the past – especially on smaller games.

“I think people look at [cross-play] and say is it better for gamers. If it’s better for gamers, I have a hard time thinking why we shouldn’t go do this, especially when you’re trying to make the gaming business a bigger business; grow it, get more games, create more opportunity,” he said. “Especially in the indie space, actually. If you’re creating an online indie game and you’re going to create five [shards] of your game–the Steam version, Xbox Live on PC, Xbox version, the PlayStation version, the Switch version creates hard matchmaking scenarios. We should help developers, not make their lives more difficult.”

We know that it is possible, especially since Epic’s Fortnite accidentally enabled the feature, letting the blue and green sides play together for a bit before yanking the functionality.

Last Updated: October 12, 2017

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