Microsoft recently announced that Cross-Network Play will be coming to the Xbox One. In the history of Xbox, something like this has never been done before and it certainly is exciting.
First, in addition to natively supporting cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10 games that use Xbox Live, we’re enabling developers to support cross-network play as well. This means players on Xbox One and Windows 10 using Xbox Live will be able to play with players on different online multiplayer networks – including other console and PC networks.
Rocket League, the popular racing/sports title can currently be played on the PlayStation 4 alongside PC players. Now, the game can be played on the Xbox One with PC players. Not only does this introduce Xbox One players to new competition, it also increases the online community which is always a plus.
Earlier today, Phil Spencer tweeted about the benefits regarding Cross-Network Play between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) March 14, 2016
For years, I’ve always thought that cross-play between Xbox, PlayStation, and PC gamers would be a wonderful thing. While any multiplayer game would benefit from this feature, I think about console massively multiplayer online games more. I remember the ambitious, but flawed game Defiance which launched last generation. It’s a game that promised a lot, but didn’t deliver on many aspects. One of the biggest problems is that the game often felt empty because there weren’t many players experiencing the game. If previous consoles had cross-play, the community would have been significantly larger which would have helped the game a plant its feet a little more.
DC Universe Online has been out for the PC and PlayStation consoles for a while and it will be launching later this year for the Xbox One. Currently, the PlayStation versions and PC version can play together while the Xbox One version won’t have this feature. Now that this announcement has been made, maybe the Xbox One can also have the cross-play feature. Not all of my friends have an Xbox One. Some of the people in my social circle play on the PlayStation 4 while a majority are PC gamers. Though I can buy the PlayStation 4 or PC version of a game to play with friends, it doesn’t make sense to buy multiple copies of a game. The potential of cross-play between networks can unify those people whose social circles may not game on the same consoles.
Phil Spencer’s tweet indicates a major problem with multiplayer games that cross-play can resolve. There are many games on the Xbox One (and I assume other) consoles that are not popular compared to the high profile games found on the market. I wrote an article in December talking about games in the Games With Gold program that should have been advertised more. Knight Squad, and #IDARB were two extremely well made and addicting multiplayer games that suffered from an inconsistent online community. Both of these games are on the PC and with cross-play, the online communities could be bigger and provide a more reliable source of fun. Sitting in a lobby for more than 25 minutes is not fun and unfortunate for the players as well as the developers.
If developers opt in and allow their games to utilize cross-play, that will help make their game have a longer-lasting community. I would be inclined to jump back and play games if I knew there was a better chance to find an online match. While Sony and Microsoft are competitors, unifying the online experience is just beneficial for both install bases. There will always be competition in terms of sales and exclusives (whether console or timed), but if both companies can see eye to eye on this issue, it could be something so game-changing that doesn’t just help gamers, but helps the people who make the games as well.
Even though we have to wait awhile to see if this will become a reality, Xbox fans should be excited that cross-play with PC is happening and that Microsoft is open to working alongside Sony. This is a big step for the video game industry that has the potential to be revolutionary even though it may not seem so clear at the moment. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and I hope that video game fans are excited as well.