Deep Thoughts Done Quick: The implications of cross-play

Console wars are as pointless today as they were in the ’90s. The big three — Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft — have been embroiled in their bitter war since the OG Xbox made its splashy debut. We’ve been in the trenches for so long that it’s hard to believe that there’s another way.

So, it comes as a collective surprise when games are able to navigate the tricky waters of ensuring the consoles “make nice” during multiplayer.

Rocket League is our modern-day gaming Magellan — its bombastic multiplayer mode will be among the first to traverse the console ‘verse with great aplomb. The initial announcement for PC and PS4 cross-play was huge. The cross-play between PC, PS4, and Xbox One was even more important… even though the two consoles don’t currently talk. And, as of Gamescom 2017, Rocket League is coming to Nintendo Switch.

Cross-play isn’t the same thing as releasing the game on multiple platforms. Having a game on a bunch of different platforms is great, sure, but the limitations surrounding playing with your friends on other platforms has plagued gamers for (console) generations. That Final Fantasy XI could be played on both the PS2 and the PC (with the ability to play with your friends) meant the world (and possibly a chocobo) to MMO gamers back in the day.

Cross-play and platform-agnostic multiplayer modes enable players to choose the consoles that work best for themselves, their families, and their lifestyles without being beholden to what their friends are playing on. With cross-play on games like Minecraft, I can take the game with my on my Switch when I’m travelling and still play with my sons on their PS4 and iPad.

The most important aspect of cross-play is that it builds communities. We can fill in the trenches that the console wars helped dig. And yes, there’s a certain amount of reluctance from Sony (for a number of reasons, including some questionable architecture choices), but the cross-play forecast is pretty sunny.

And if we can sustain this commitment to building communities of players by blurring the lines between platforms, we’ll see communities that form around games, instead of their platform-specific ports.

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