by Giuseppe Nelva
There are many elements to the life of a gamer that can prove annoying and inconvenient. But there is one that can easily be defined bloody hinderingly awkward, and it’s the following scenario:
Friend A: “Hey mate, I heard you bought Destiny. How is it?”
Friend B: “Yeah, I love it. My Guardian’s almost to the cap now.”
Friend A: “I have a Warlock. We should really get a fire team going and shred some Fallen.”
Friend B: “Sounds like a plan, what’s your Xbox Live Gamertag again?”
Friend A: “Oh crap…”
I’m quite sure a situation like that happened to almost everyone, just as much as the scenario in which, prior to purchasing a game, one has to pretty much choose between his friends on one or the other platform, knowing that he’ll be able to play with some while excluding the others.
With the fact that Xbox One and PS4 now share quite similar architecture, and that said architecture is close to a PC, it’s really time for that artificial, silly and anachronistic barrier to fall. It’s time for Xbox, PlayStation and PC gamers to be able to share the same gameplay on the same servers.
While it’s not possible to know all the deals and policies going on in the background, at the moment it seems that the biggest obstacle to this long overdue reunion lays within Xbox Live’s policies, which explicitly forbids any kind of direct cross-platform gameplay.
But it doesn’t really matter whose policies, caveats or nonsensical legalities are keeping gamers apart. Those have to go. It’s really that simple.
It’s not even unprecedented. Not only are there multiple games that currently permit PC and PS4 gamers to play and interact together in the same virtual spaces, but the old and venerable Final Fantasy XI puts PS2 and Xbox 360 players shoulder to shoulder against the monsters of Vana’diel.
While it has never been officially confirmed (at least to my knowledge), Final Fantasy XI‘s case seems to stand apart from the rest because the deal between Square Enix and Microsoft was sealed before the new Xbox Live policies were put in place; but that’s really besides the point. It’s definitely a demonstration that not only it can be done, but the sky didn’t fall on Microsoft’s collective head for allowing it.
It isn’t even just a matter of removing a barrier that has never made sense and makes even less sense in today’s globalized internet: by preventing cross-platform gameplay, Microsoft is missing on some games like Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and War Thunder, which automatically became console exclusives for the PS4.
In today’s extremely competitive market in which the Xbox One is currently occupying a rather uncomfortable underdog position, Microsoft can hardly afford handing over exclusives to its rivals.
There’s also a more subtle, but still relevant matter at hand. In today’s fluid market, gamers move on quite readily to the next big title causing online communities to dwindle rapidly. This is especially true for MMORPGs that directly base their continued success and survival on retaining a numerous playerbase.
Grouping all major platforms together on the same servers would cement each game’s playerbase, removing a rather damaging fragmentation effect. This would keep even older games active longer and would reduce the need for server merging, saving both gamers and developers a rather large source of headaches.
Of course the ball isn’t just on Microsoft’s field — it takes two to tango. So, a full-scale opening of the borders for any developer that requires it (as I’m sure there would still be plenty developers opting to keep their players separate for one reason of another) would require a degree of coordination between Microsoft and Sony, something that can definitely be done.
Microsoft’s new head of the Xbox division — Phil Spencer — has proved to be quite the progressive thinker in the few months he has been in charge, and has even gone as far as timidly mentioning the possibility of letting Xbox One and PC gamers play together. While that would be highly welcomed, it would still fall short of what can and should be done.
It’s time for Spencer, Shuhei Yoshida at Sony and the teams behind them to put their heads together to hack down this obsolete divide.
This November will mark the first birthday of the PS4 and Xbox One. Even more importantly, it will bring the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s time for the division between PlayStation, Xbox and PC gamers to meet the same end. Carrying a souvenir home could be more difficult this time around, but it’d still be a day to remember.