Microsoft is announcing a big new feature for Xbox owners today: cross-network play. It’s something they have hinted at for years, and now it seems the reality of PS4, Xbox One, and PC players playing the same game together might finally happen. At this point, there’s very little difference between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. But there was one key difference. Xbox gamers could only play with Xbox and PC players as Microsoft was restricting access to the multiplayer component. Microsoft just announced that game developers can now create cross-platform multiplayer modes that work with other consoles and operating systems. So it means that the next Call of Duty or FIFA could feature a multiplayer mode that works with both Xbox and Playstation gamers. It just depends on developers now. Developers building games for Xbox One and Windows 10 will be able to support the feature, but it will require Sony and others to “participate” in order for games to be played across Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The first game that is going to support cross-platform multiplayer is Rocket League. Microsoft mentions cross-platform multiplayer between the Xbox One and Windows, but you can also expect support for PlayStation gamers as well given that the current version of Rocket League supports cross-platform multiplayer between PlayStation 4 and PC players. It’s unclear how developers are supposed to deal with duplicated PlayStation Network and Xbox Live screen names.
If developers and console makers get behind Microsoft’s support of cross-network play then it will change the shape of games in the future. Currently, console gamers are restricted to playing titles on the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live, and many pick an Xbox One or PS4 based on what their friends purchased. Opening up online multiplayer gaming across different platforms will remove a big restriction in console gaming, but it will also create a conversation around which titles should allow PC gamers to play against consoles. A mouse and keyboard can still have many advantages over a gamepad for first-person shooters, so it’s a new challenge that game developers will have to balance for cross-network play. For PC games that were using Microsoft’s online framework, these games will also work with other operating systems, such as OS X. And finally, Xbox players will be able to restrict multiplayer modes to other Xbox players only, but it’s unclear why you’d do that .