In an announcement that seemed to come out of nowhere, Microsoft has announced that cross-platform gameplay will soon be a possibility for future game releases. This means the barrier that separated both camps from enjoying the same games together will eventually be lifted over time, adding a new twist to how the current console war will pan out until the next generation of systems are released some time down the road.
This comes as a surprise for different reasons. First, it has been a common practice for both Sony and Microsoft to not even discuss the matter of allowing players on either platform to enjoy games together, as that would affect revenue from those with brand loyalty. Additionally, Microsoft had a near monopoly on console-based online play until the launch of the PlayStation Network in 2006. Though Sony offered online play on the PS2, it was largely proprietary to the game you were playing and not a wide “network”. Though Microsoft provided the better service for many years, the launch of the PS4 proved to be a large dent in Microsoft’s profits, as the PlayStation Network had become the favored network over Xbox Live which resulted from the PlayStation 4 dominating the console market.
Up until now, cross-platform play has been limited to console vs PC, with examples of success (Portal 2) and failure (Shadowrun). With cross-platform play between consoles, gamers will be given more incentive to purchase multiplayer-based titles as the fear of missing out on playing with friends on other networks is eliminated. This will also drive sales of the Xbox One upwards, attracting those who are gravitating towards a PS4 in order to play with friends.
The first game confirmed to give the new feature a test run is Rocket League, the hugely successful kart-soccer combo. The PS4 version already supports cross-platform play with PC players, and Microsoft is hinting that this feature will be added to the Xbox One version as well. Cross platform play between the two games seems like a perfect fit as the games are nearly identical. Given that the consoles of this generation share many similarities in architecture and development methods, the possibility of this feature popping up was inevitable.
This will be a huge step upward for Microsoft, who has been losing the race in the console wars to Sony. With many unsold consoles and holiday bundles still choking up stores and warehouses, it is clear they need to find a new method to move the consoles and regain footing against Sony. The Xbox One is looking to retake the top spot, and I am excited to see what Microsoft comes up with next.