Microsoft's always been good at making headlines – and it usually opts to do so when this author's out of the office. It announced today that it will be enabling cross-network play on the Xbox One, a bold new direction from the Redmond manufacturer that… Well, puts yet another of its policies in line with the PlayStation 4. Perhaps it will officially ditch that dodgy indie parity clause at some point, too? Apparently it already has! (Sort of.)
We're not criticising the announcement: this is a good thing – though it's not really our domain to discuss. The hullabaloo around the web has been a bit baffling, though – primarily because this is a stance that Sony (and, indeed, Nintendo) has adopted all along. Remember when Rocket League launched on the PS4 last year? You could play with people on the PC. War Thunder? Same. Final Fantasy XIV? Yup – even on the PlayStation 3.
In fact, our understanding is that those latter two titles never came to Microsoft's machine because of its stubborn stance on its cross-platform policy; one would assume that Gaijin Entertainment and Square Enix are respectively rubbing their hands at this news. And rightly they should: this is positive for Xbox One owners and the wider gaming community alike. But it's nothing new.
We suppose that the Redmond firm's vague "invitation" for other networks to join the party is the potential game changer here – but it's a gathering that Sony and Nintendo are already at. Take the upcoming game Dreii: that will connect players across PS4, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and even Wii U. Perhaps the platform holders involved should have made a bigger song and dance about this news months ago, because apparently we're in a brave new world today.
To be fair, it's worth us mentioning that Pure Chess – a game which does support cross-platform play across various devices including the Wii U and 3DS – doesn't on PlayStation platforms, with developer VooFoo Studios struggling to ever really offer a reasonable explanation as to why. Could the PlayStation maker have blocked such functionality? Only the developer will know the answer to that, but it seems unlikely given its stance elsewhere.
Still, today's announcement – and the wording of it – seems intended to put Sony in a sticky spot; the Japanese giant stands to look the bad guy if it turns around and says that it won't allow Xbox gamers to play with PS4 patrons. But it's perhaps worth remembering that, even in the event that it does pull the shutters down, this announcement from Microsoft is unlikely to change the way that games are made; The Division, for example, could have quite comfortably supported cross-platform play between the PS4 and PC – but it didn't, which is true of most multiplayer games. And we're not entirely sure why that would suddenly change in the wake of today's news.
So, what has today's announcement actually altered? Well, Microsoft's removed another brick from its walled garden, and that's good news for everyone. Presumably, the firm also hopes to see Sony squirm when it inevitably gets quizzed about the topic at the Game Developers Conference later this week. But given that Sony's always seemed open to cross-platform play on its consoles, then we can't imagine that its stance is suddenly going to change. And even in the unlikely event that the organisation's against the idea, then the same status quo that existed just 24 hours ago will still remain – there'll just be a little more interoperability between the PC and the Xbox One from now on.
Y'know, the kind of functionality that's been prevalent on the PS4 since it launched...
Are we missing the bigger picture here? Would you like more games to support cross-platform play? Do you want to game with your Xbox brethren? Do you even care? Connect with another console owner in the comments section below.