If you missed it, Microsoft recently announced that they are interested in pursuing the ability for gamers to play games with each other, regardless of their console or platform. In the original press release about it from Microsoft’s Chris Charla, director of [email protected], stated:

“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.”

While they didn’t name any specific companies, it’s clear that Microsoft is directing their comments to Sony, their biggest competitor.

Cooperation Means Better Gaming

In the past, there has been little cooperation between rival console companies. From the days of Nintendo and Sega, the console wars has put up walls between different groups of gamers, debating everything from their trademark characters to console graphical capabilities. As more companies jumped into the video game industries, new rivalries were born and others died down.

With Microsoft and Sony though, there has been a touch of cooperation and goodwill between the two companies over the years. When their newest generation of consoles came out, they allowed players to transport characters from Diablo III and Grand Theft Auto V on a last generation machine to the newer console of the player’s choosing. For example, players could move their data from an Xbox 360 to a PS4. In the past though, this has been the extent of cooperation between the two companies.

This shift in cooperation could be a massive step in the right direction to tearing down the “console walls.” Though they will remain in competition for gamers’ wallets, that doesn’t mean console companies can’t work together to improve the gaming industry as a whole. If cross platform gaming comes off as a success, we could see even more cooperation between companies to make an even better gaming experience.  

Gamers being able to play together means even more support for great games, especially ones that rely heavily on online multiplayer. Games like Battlefield, Rocket League, and Street Fighter V all live and die on people playing online. More people playing means better match making, less time spent waiting for games, more competition, and a better overall experience. This extra interest and support also means more developers will create great games with online functions, so you can play more with your friends.

A Smart Move for Xbox

In this most recent generation of consoles, Playstation 4 has been outselling the Xbox One. When a gamer goes to choose a console, a major deciding factor for some is what consoles their friends have. Since PS4 has been selling better, that means that likelihood that a gamer’s friends owing PS4 is higher than owning Xbox, so if playing with friends is that important to them, they’ll go that route. This factor clearly favors whoever has more consoles out, which in this case is Playstation.

Xbox clearly recognizes this and now, instead of fighting it, wants to remove this factor from the equation completely. Instead of forcing consumers to pick a console based on what friends have, they could now base their decisions on tech specs, features and exclusive games catalog.

This announcement is also a great PR move by Xbox. They’ve been trying to fight all of the bad publicity they got back before the Xbox One came out, when they announced a bunch of features gamers didn’t want, like DRM and an always online Kinect. Since then, Microsoft has been back pedaling, and now they are pushing to be seen more as “gamer friendly.” This includes focusing on backwards compatibility with 360 games and streaming Xbox games on Windows 10 devices. Announcing that they want to do cross platform gaming now makes them seem the more progressive console and now everybody (including me) is talking about it.

No matter how you measure the effectiveness of a PR campaign, from Twitter shares, to page views, this statement is a big success for Xbox. People are excited about it and are viewing Xbox favorably again. The statement itself has been shared thousands of times on social media, and dozens of articles reporting and discussing the possibilities have been written. People are paying attention to Xbox again.  

Will It Happen?

This is a “time will tell” type of situation. Sony has also released a statement, basically saying that have been supporting cross play since Final Fantasy 11 in 2002 between Playstation and PCs. They didn’t mention specifically wanting to make a deal with Xbox, but have also said it wouldn’t be too hard to achieve and are open to the idea. Obviously they are playing around with the idea, but, just as it benefits Xbox, it wouldn’t benefit Playstation as much since they are the more popular console.

Hopefully, Sony will join Microsoft and push gaming into a new golden age. This idea though will require support from game developers and players to make it successful. The more we support it, and actually use it, the better off it will be.

These type of choices can only benefit gamers and collaboration from both major companies could result in some very amazing things.