Microsoft this week announced that it would support cross-network play between its latest gaming console and other platforms.
Cross-network support would allow Xbox One players to engage in multiplayer gaming with friends and randoms on platforms such as Steam and the PlayStation Network.
It will be up to developers to support cross-platform games, however, as Microsoft’s studios build only Xbox One and Windows 10 games these days.
The first theater of that modern warfare will take place onPsyonix’s Rocket League, a soccer-inspired motorsport in which daredevils use power-ups and revise physics to score points against opposing teams.
Rocket League will launch this spring with cross-network support between Xbox One and PC players, but Psyonix is inviting other networks to join in on the battle.
Support for cross-network play makes things really interesting, said Roger Entner, principal analyst atRecon Analytics.
“Microsoft has always been very closed when it comes to that,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Traditionally, if you wanted to do a muliplayer game, Microsoft insisted on the game being hosted on their servers and them having control over it.”
The company already has been supporting on a handful of games skirmishes between Xbox One and PC players who use Windows. The latest move opens up the Xbox One to competition against the PC community at large, which largely games on Valve’s Steam client.
“With the PC, it makes a lot of sense because it stays in the family,” Entner said.
“I pity the people who have to play on the console because usually they get slaughtered by the PC people. That’s why they keep these things separate,” he said, referring to arguably the most powerful combination of video game accessories on any platform: the keyboard and mouse. The PC staples are much more precise in shooter games.
PC gamers can use Xbox and PlayStation controllers to even the playing field, with console owners in games more suited for gamepads, such as platformers. Microsoft has stated its intention to support the keyboard and mouse on the Xbox One, but its users will be at a disadvantage until that happens.
As intriguing as cross-platform support may sound, there’s still the matter of the network behind the most dominant console of this generation: Sony.
Success depends whether Sony is on board or if it will “balk at Xbox vs. PlayStation battles,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group.
Developers risk putting in extra effort to support the PlayStation Network in their cross-network formulas only to find out Sony isn’t on board, he told TechNewsWorld, “but for console-to-PC games, the extra work to support interoperation between consoles should be minimal. It is likely these existing cross-platform titles will be enabled first, so the initial risk is pretty minimal.”
Sony’s willingness to jump into the cross-network arena may be a moot point, however, as it reportedly has accepted Microsoft’s challenge.
Developers should find gamers to be “very receptive” to cross-network play, and that could make both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 more popular, he said.
“When you have titles that cross platforms, being able to play with folks on another platform broadens significantly the number of people available to play with you at any time,” Enderle noted. “It also lowers the risk of being on the wrong platform, removing one of the barriers to buying either the Xbox or PlayStation.”