This morning, Xbox unveiled their plans to bring cross-network play to their console. In a statement obviously aimed at main competitor PlayStation, Chris Carla explained that:
“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 the invitation has been extended by Microsoft, it is yet to be RSVP’d by Sony. This move will see Xbox Live being opened up to the PlayStation Network players, with the first title to be available across both platforms being the super competitive Rocket League.
To open up the floor for PlayStation to move in seems risky for Xbox, who have been on the wrong end of a boatload of criticism for their Live service over the past few weeks. On the one hand, PlayStation developers would be given access to pretty much the other half of the gaming community, as would Xbox. Essentially, the existence of PlayStation and Xbox developer cross-play capabilities will break down the exclusivity of certain titles on either side. With titles crossing multiplayer groups in such a way, the ‘buddy’ purchases will slow right down (the factor of who you can play with online when considering which console to purchase). Then again, most people who are going to purchase a console have already done so.
We should also consider what role this agreement, should Sony developers choose to accept it, will play when virtual reality becomes the norm. If this is the first move in a unified multiplayer console experience, then the PlayStation VR (a more mainstream gaming device) will have to be compatible with players using Xbox’s virtual reality – likely to be Microsoft HoloLens (a high-end development device focused on computing and applications).
In my opinion, it is unlikely that this utopian field of unified multiplayer will ever emerge. Sure, some PlayStation developers will produce games that can be cross-played with Xbox Live, however it is likely this feature of the title will be a back-of-the-box gimmick.