Microsoft have given developers the option to allow for cross-network play. This initiative will allow gamers “to play with players on different online multiplayer networks.”
Microsoft made it clear it is up to the developers to support this initiative. It not only connects you to PC gamers but can connect players of varying consoles. The game to kickstart this new move is none other than 2015’s sleeper hit Rocket League, a fluid, perfectly realized sports game where you play high-octane soccer with cars. It’s the ideal game to start this off: a game that isn’t a first person shooter, the like of which give P.C gamers unfair advantages. Rocket League surprised everyone with its critical success, ending up with a continually dedicated player-base, and solid reviews.
Cross-network Play will allow for faster match-making, with a larger pool of players people to pull from, and grant matches between gamers closer to each other in location, thus the servers remain efficient. If your online game of choice has a less established community, cross-play will help you keep finding [more] people to play with. Or: if the majority of players are on one console (because of exclusive DLC or bundles) and you are on the other, cross-play will grant you to play online undeterred of that fact.
Then how will voice-chat work, you may ponder? The system protocols which enable voice chat vary with every system. Xbox One players were unable to communicate with Xbox 360 gamers at first, though recently it’s been enabled in Party-chat. Phil Spencer has mentioned it on their to-do list, though without a clear date in mind.
Think of the praise the first major publisher will receive when they announce themselves as the first Cross-Network Play triple-A product on the market. Not only will the public envelop them with good wishes – and market themselves as “all about the player, no matter which console of choice” – but they will set the bar, if the experience is a success.
What should undermine one’s excitement is the bidding wars for additional content (maps, characters, missions, etc). Call of Duty made a deal with Sony last year; More recently, Ubisoft’s The Division struck a deal with Microsoft. Presumably, players from one ecosystem will be shut out of the DLC, until exclusivity wears out, by which time, one set of players have already moved on; consequently online cross network play would suffer from these deals.
What’s more, think of the future programmers appointed to get the servers up and running for the first triple-A Cross-Network Play game. This is bound to be a complicated scenario for them.
It’s fascinating to see Xbox’s identity shift from being an enclosed service to a more welcoming one. I wonder how open the developers are to introducing this initiate into their products.