Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Microsoft Cross-Network Announcement

Has the internet calmed down yet? Hopefully they have by now after Microsoft's announcement yesterday about a future update to the XBox One that would allow for cross-network play. What does that mean? You can play with people on other systems, on the same servers, at the same time, something that Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV gamers have experienced for years. Gasp! How revolutionary!

This is all part of Microsoft's plan with the Windows 10 Universal Windows Applications (UWA), discussed earlier this month. Any platform using Windows 10 can talk to other units and allow for better user integration of technology. While some may disagree with the premise, as it potentially locks in Microsoft to be the end-all be-all of PC content, to have a company as big as Microsoft open to the idea of cross-network/cross-platform play is a step forward for gaming.

So before you get too excited about the prospects of cross-network play, no one else has agreed to this outside of Microsoft. Sony, Nintendo, Ubisoft, EA, Rockstar Games, none of them have given a green-light to the process. And the vast majority of games on the market right now were not developed with this feature in mind, or with the UWA built in, because cross-networking was never a thing. It opens up a new door of possibilities, and legal issues. When an idea or property signs a contract with Sony, they now have to look into the implications of using that content on another platform. More money would have to change hands (if a property is going to be on multiple systems, any owner would want more money for the rights) and you lose exclusivity. Not to mention, Sony would have to play ball with Microsoft's UWA: read that as more money to Microsoft, less to Sony. I'm not even going to get into the issue of advertising within video games (which opens up a new level of legal headaches when you bring in advertisers).

It's a lot of little details to think about. And it's not something where Sony and the rest of the gaming field can provide an answer overnight.

Rocket League will be the first game to get the cross-platform treatment. Again we'd like to point out that this would exclude non-Microsoft systems/consoles. Rocket League's cross-platform will only pertain to the XBox One and PC's with Windows 10. Unless Sony decides they want in on the deal.

Lots to think about today, but don't get too excited until the rest of the gaming execs decide on a response. All of them need to determine if this is a good outlet for their business, or if console exclusivity is a better realm.


Update 3/16/16: Sony has responded to GameSpot, seeking comment about Microsoft's invitation. While they did not address them directly, they did state that they would be open to speaking with publishers and developers about cross-platform possibilities, and referenced Final Fantasy XI as an example as a past success. But did not provide a direct answer to "yes or no" that they would work with Microsoft.

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