Cross-platform play between Xbox and PlayStation has been a hot topic for more than a decade, but to most it still seems like a far-off wish. A world in which Xbox owners can play online with their PlayStation-supporting friends? It would be nice, but for now, it’s just not possible. Microsoft shook this conviction earlier in March with an announcement that caused a stir in the video game industry. Chris Carla, director of ID@Xbox declared that Microsoft would be allowing cross-platform support between Xbox One and other platforms, including Windows 10 and consoles that support other non-Microsoft networks.
Charla explained on Xbox.com: “In addition to natively supporting cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10 games that use Xbox Live, we’re enabling developers to support cross-network play as well.” In supporting cross-network play, Microsoft is making the first move, extending the figurative olive branch to Sony. Microsoft is willing to open the Xbox Live network to PlayStation Network users, allowing players on either side to play games with each other.
Rocket League is the first game to feature this support. Now it’s up to developers and Sony to take advantage of it. Rocket League, a soccer game played in battle-cars, has exploded in popularity in recent months. If players on all platforms could successfully come together to play on a unified network, it could easily encourage many other developers to go for cross-platform play.
Sony was reluctant to give a definite response, but the day after Microsoft’s announcement told GameSpot that the company remained open to the idea. “We would be happy to have the conversation with any publishers or developers who are interested in cross-platform play,” Sony said when asked if it would be interested in working with Microsoft. While Sony was reluctant to mention Microsoft by name, the company has supported cross-platform play in the past. Most notably, Final Fantasy 11 players on Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 2 could all play together on the same servers.
A few days later, Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment’s worldwide studios, spoke with Eurogamer, stating that the technical aspects of joining Xbox Live and PlayStation Network would actually be the easiest part. While there would certainly be technical challenges, they would be rather simple to overcome. Yoshida said:
“Because PC is an open platform it’s much more straightforward [compared to Xbox One]. Connecting two different closed networks is much more complicated, so we have to work with developers and publishers to understand what it is they are trying to accomplish. We also have to look at the technical aspect. The technical aspect could be the easiest.”
The real challenge lies on the business end, where things could get tangled in red tape. Both ends would have to consider policy and legal issues before moving forward. Despite all of the difficulties, though, starting a discussion is a positive first step towards making what has been a long-time dream for many video game fans a reality at long last.