- Cross-platform play allows players on different gaming platforms to play together online.
- It connects players across console, PC, and mobile platforms.
- Cross-platform play keeps a game’s player base large after release.
- It expands players’ social gaming experience beyond their own platform.
- Players can game with friends regardless of platform restrictions.
With the rapid advancement of technology and growth of the video game industry, cross-platform play has become an increasingly common and important feature. But what exactly is cross-platform play? Also referred to as crossplay or cross-play, it refers to the ability of players using different video game hardware or platforms to play with each other simultaneously in online multiplayer games. This connectivity across various gaming ecosystems enables expanded social gaming experiences.
The purpose of this comprehensive article is to fully evaluate and analyze the key aspects of cross-platform play. It will cover the definition in depth, explain the technology behind crossplay capabilities, outline the benefits and advantages, discuss challenges and limitations, review examples of games utilizing cross-platform features, and provide an overall assessment of the value and future implications of this growing trend in gaming. With the detailed information provided throughout the piece, readers will gain valuable insight into how cross-platform play works and why it matters for the future of interactive entertainment.
With the video game industry continuing to thrive, publishers aim to maximize accessibility, build robust online communities, increase retention, and tap into larger revenue streams. Cross-platform play helps accomplish these goals by breaking down barriers, allowing players on any platform to game together. The technology holds exciting potential, but also comes with complexities in execution. This article will fully explore all dimensions of this multifaceted topic to demonstrate how cross-platform connectivity stands poised to redefine the gaming landscape as we know it. Let’s dive in and discover all there is to know about cross-platform play.
What is Cross-Platform Play and How Does It Work?
Cross-platform play, also known as crossplay or cross-play, refers to the ability of players using different video game hardware or platforms to play with each other simultaneously in online multiplayer games. This connectivity across various gaming ecosystems enables expanded social gaming experiences.
Specifically, cross-platform play allows gamers on different video game consoles or computing platforms to play in the same online multiplayer game environment. For example, a PlayStation user could play in the same match or server as an Xbox or Nintendo Switch user, as well as against or with PC gamers on Windows or Mac. This ability blurs the lines between discrete gaming platforms and opens up new possibilities for multiplayer matchmaking and social interaction.
On a technical level, crossplay is made possible through the use of cross-platform game engines and networking middleware designed to enable connectivity between different systems. Major engines like Unity and Unreal provide robust cross-platform support. The game code and networking layers are designed to synchronize and transmit data between players on any supported device.
Servers and matchmaking services run by the game publisher also play an integral role. These backend systems allow players on all platforms to be matched together based on skill, locale, and other parameters. The data for user profiles, games, progression, etc. is synchronized across platforms via the cloud. This allows cross-platform recognition, tracking, and coordination.
So in summary, cross-platform play is powered by game engines, networking infrastructure, and servers designed to transcend traditional platform divides. The result is a unified multiplayer environment where users can enjoy social gaming experiences together regardless of their device.
What Are the Benefits of Cross-Platform Play?
Cross-platform play offers a number of compelling benefits that improve the gaming experience for users, developers, and publishers:
Bigger Player Pools and Faster Matchmaking – By combining players across platforms, crossplay ensures larger multiplayer pools, shorter wait times for matches, and better skill-based matchmaking.
Expanded Social Experience – Gamers can play with friends on other platforms, uniting gaming communities. Crossplay also allows easier multiplayer interaction with random players.
Prolonged Game Life and Engagement – Cross-platform accessibility helps retain players over time and keep multiplayer gaming communities thriving longer after release.
Reduces Platform Lock-In – Gamers have more freedom to switch between platforms while retaining progression and the ability to play with friends who use other systems.
Enhances Portability and Accessibility – Players who own a game on multiple platforms can switch between them while maintaining a consistent experience.
Provides More Exposure for Games – Publishers can expose their games to more players across console, PC and mobile ecosystems.
New Revenue Opportunities – Cross-platform multiplayer opens up new monetization options for publishers through cross-play in-game purchases and unlockables.
In summary, cross-platform play enhances connectivity, social engagement, accessibility, longevity, and commercial success for multiplayer games. It delivers advantages for publishers and players alike. As gamers expect more seamless cross-platform experiences, these features will likely become standard in most multiplayer-focused titles.
What Are Some Challenges With Implementing Cross-Platform Play?
Despite the many benefits, achieving fully functional cross-platform play comes with some technological and business hurdles:
Platform Politics – Game companies must negotiate complex platform agreements to enable cooperation between competing console makers and PC storefronts.
User Fragmentation – Separate friends lists and account systems across platforms can fragment social connectivity.
Performance Differences – Varying graphical and processing capabilities between platforms can impact balancing and play experience.
Cheating Risks – Potential for one platform ecosystem having greater vulnerabilities to cheating, hacking, exploits.
Control Inconsistencies – Gamepad vs keyboard/mouse controls can create imbalances in competitive multiplayer. Aim assist on controllers also factors in.
Costs of Development – Extensive compatibility testing and specialized integration adds overhead for developers.
Segmented Patches/Updates – Approval processes may delay or segment the rollout of patches/updates between platforms.
Monetization Imbalances – In-game economy differences tied to separate platform stores/currencies can cause problems.
While crossplay introduces complexities, game makers continue working to smooth out the technical and design difficulties to unlock the many benefits seamless cross-platform play offers to both players and publishers. Solutions like unified progression systems and account syncing help overcome some hurdles. Overall, the biggest obstacle remains political in nature based on rival platform holder attitudes. But continued consumer demand for crossplay capabilities provides an incentive for cooperation.
What Games Support Cross-Platform Play?
Many notable multiplayer games across various genres now incorporate cross-platform play:
Fortnite – Epic’s popular battle royale shooter set an early precedent, allowing crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, and mobile.
Rocket League – Psyonix’s sports hybrid supports crossplay between all major consoles, PC and Switch, enabling wide multiplayer access.
Call of Duty: Warzone – Activision’s FPS battle royale game features full crossplay matchmaking across console and PC.
Apex Legends – EA’s battle royale title has full crossplay between PC, PS4, and Xbox One, with Switch on the roadmap.
World of Warships – Wargaming’s naval warfare MMO provides unified PC and console crossplay.
Pokemon Go – Niantic’s mobile phenomenon expanded into Switch, enabling crossplay between mobile platforms and Nintendo’s console.
SMITE – Hi-Rez Studios’ MOBA allows cross-progression and unified competitive play between PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch.
These and many other titles demonstrate the traction and expanded adoption cross-platform play is seeing across top genres like battle royale, MMOs, MOBAs, and competitive multiplayer. Certain franchises that have traditionally resisted crossplay, such as Call of Duty, have also begun embracing it based on player demand. As the technology matures and politics fade, cross-platform play will likely become an expectation.
What Does the Future Hold for Cross-Platform Play?
Cross-platform play stands poised to continue accelerating as developers recognize its ability to expand audiences, enhance multiplayer engagement, and increase earnings. Here are some predictions for the future of crossplay:
- Seamless cross-progression and unified accounts/friends systems will help strengthen unified gaming experiences across platforms.
- Crossplay will eventually expand beyond consoles and PC to encompass cloud-based game streaming services as well.
- Mainstream franchises that have avoided crossplay so far will adopt it as consumer expectations grow.
- Tools and middleware will continue improving to simplify crossplay implementation for developers.
- More varied and asymmetric forms of crossplay will emerge, like mobile-console integration.
- Publisher politics and restrictions around crossplay will continue eroding in the face of consumer demand.
- Multiplayer games lacking crossplay will see increasing likelihood of faster community dropoff.
- Crossplay will pave the way for game engines and ecosystems that span multiple platforms by default.
The benefits and player appeal of cross-platform play make it the likely way forward for multiplayer gaming. While challenges remain, the industry will continue evolving to meet consumer expectations for unified social play. Ultimately, crossplay promises to fulfill the vision of interactive entertainment unbounded by traditional platform divides.
Cross-platform play represents an exciting evolution in multiplayer gaming that transcends the borders between competing console, PC, and mobile ecosystems. Allowing gamers on all major platforms to play together delivers numerous benefits, from expanded player pools and accessibility to prolonged game lifespan and strengthened social connectivity. Despite technical and political hurdles, crossplay adoption continues accelerating – and will likely be a standard feature going forward as developers recognize its ability to engage players, increase earnings, and fulfill the true promise of gaming as a social interactive medium. While execution complexities remain, the overall trajectory points to a future of gaming experiences unhindered by traditional platform divides.