In 2016, the Internet is ubiquitous and everything is connected. Well, unless you’re talking about online gaming. Even if a game is released on everything under the sun — PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U – you’re still usually restricted to playing against folks using the same platform as you are. Call of Duty fans on PS4 can only play against other PlayStation owners, those on Xbox One can only battle other Xbox owners, and so on.
Well, it seems Microsoft may be planning to move away from this less-than-ideal state of affairs. In a recent blog post, Microsoft announced they’re officially going to be supporting cross-network play. They’ve already been supporting this in a limited capacity, allowing Xbox and PC gamers to play together, but now they’re expanding the support to “other console and PC networks.”
Now, it’s not like all Xbox One and PS4 games will instantly support cross-network play. Individual developers have to support the feature, and I imagine Sony and Nintendo will have to open up their networks to make it happen. Just because Microsoft says “hey, we’re cool with cross-network play,” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen.
It’s easy to see why Microsoft is throwing their support behind cross-network play, as it stands to benefit them more than anybody. Microsoft has built the Xbox brand around Xbox Live and online play, but the Xbox One has less than half the install base of the PS4. It’s unsurprising that they’d like to tap into Sony’s larger online network, and it also wouldn’t be surprising if Sony told them to go screw. Also, don’t expect Nintendo to open up their network any time soon because, well, they’re Nintendo.
So yeah, don’t expect cross-network play to be a universal thing immediately, but we are seeing the first signs of a thaw. Will all the platforms be playing together happily in a few years? I’d bet good money on it.