Microsoft dropped a hugely surprising announcement about Xbox One and support for cross-platform play Monday. The previously closed Xbox LIVE online network is now opening up to other gaming networks, including the possibility of the PlayStation 4 and PSN.
ID@Xbox Director Chris Charla made the surprising reveal in an update to the indie gaming platform for the Xbox One. It is an announcement that is quickly sending ripples through the gaming community.
“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.”
“Other console and PC networks” likely means the PlayStation 4, Steam, EA’s Origin service, and Ubisoft’s Uplay, as those are the other networks the Xbox One shares multi-platform games on. Why doesn’t Microsoft mention them by name? Likely because the necessary agreements need to be signed first before the company can start name dropping partners. For now, this is Microsoft announcing the move with an invite to other platforms to join in.
Of course, developers have to buy into the concept as well. Rocket League studio Psyonix is on board, as it already supports cross-play between the PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam.
“It’s up to game developers to support this feature, and Xbox Live players will always have the option of choosing to play only with other Xbox Live players,” Charla continued. “We’re thrilled to confirm that Psyonix’s Rocket League will be one of the first games to take advantage of this new capability by enabling cross-network play between Xbox One and PC players, with an open invitation for other networks to participate as well.”
Psyonix confirmed the news in a Rocket League post, with the promise of more information to come later this spring. The announcement primarily appears to be geared towards independently published titles, but it’s easy to see the cross-platform support being applied to other titles. This is especially true for games that already support cross-platform play, such as Final Fantasy XIV.
Xbox and Windows Platform Director of Program Management provided additional explanation for the push to cross-platform play via Twitter.
“Gamers want more people to play with. We’re enabling that and giving devs bigger [multiplayer] pools.”
This undoubtedly will increase the multiplayer pool in games from Call of Duty to Destiny to Madden NFL to Rocket League. The big question is how the executives in charge of the PlayStation Network will respond. If they do respond in the positive, how quickly will publishers and developers react?
This new cross-platform play initiative from Microsoft is exciting, but there are a number of hurdles that must be cleared first. One of the larger ones will be how this affects timed-exclusive agreements for games like Call of Duty and Destiny. There’s a heaping pile of technical questions, along with more mundane queries, such as will players be treated differently when playing only on Xbox LIVE’s network versus other platforms?
Expect to see more details about the ID@Xbox cross-platform initiative during the 2016 Game Developer’s Conference taking place this week in San Francisco, California. Microsoft has several sessions planned for the week including an “Xbox LIVE for Windows” presentation on Wednesday. The company also has its annual Build conference planned for the end of March. Xbox Head Phil Spencer promised further discussion about Universal Windows Platform (UWP) during the recent controversy surrounding accusations that Microsoft was attempting to build a closed ecosystem by Epic Games founder Phil Sweeney.
What do you think of Microsoft opening up Xbox LIVE to other networks such as PSN and Steam? Sound off in the comments below.
[Image via Neowin]