Microsoft Says Cross-Play Is “Unique Value” Of Theirs, But It Just Isn’t True
Earlier today, GamesIndustry International published an interview with Microsoft's Corporate Vice President Kudo Tsunoda. You might remember him as the Head of EA Chicago, where he worked on games such as Fight Night Round 3 before being hired by Microsoft, once the studio closed for good.
Once there, he became the Creative Director of Kinect. With the Kinect's gradual lessening of importance, though, Tsunoda is now overseeing some first party teams like Rare and Lionhead while also working with Remedy Entertainment, Platinum Games and Cloudgine/Reagent Games on Quantum Break, Scalebound and Crackdown 3.
Speaking to GamesIndustry, Tsunoda said that Cross-Play is a powerful idea and a unique value that only Microsoft can offer, unlike the competition (Sony's PlayStation 4).
For a long time we've had PC gamers and console gamers who weren't really able to play together. That's why Cross-Play is still such a powerful idea. You should be able to play what you love, and play together, regardless of what device you're playing on. It's about connecting people.
It's a really unique value that only we can offer. You still need very gamer-focused values, but there's lots of things you can do with our technology. We've really got a lot more going on [than our competitors]. We're doing things that can't be done on any other console.
Unfortunately, that just isn't true no matter how we slice it. Sony has been offering PC - PlayStation 4 Cross-Play for quite a while: the first game to support this functionality was Gaijin's War Thunder, and that happened on June 3, 2014.
Since then, more games have joined this little group. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn allows PS3, PS4 and PC players to play together; summer hit Rocket League has an almost flawless PC-PS4 cross-play experience (if they only enabled the ability to join the same party for PC & PS4 users, it would be perfect), and even Capcom's Street Fighter V has been announced to get cross-platform PC/PS4 fights when it releases in Spring 2016.
Dragon's Dogma Online is also expected to have PS3/PS4/PC cross-play.
Microsoft is now pushing this particular front, that's true, but they will have a hard time getting huge third party franchises like Street Fighter on this program, especially as that would likely mean skipping PlayStation 4, which remains the top selling console of this generation by far.
Announced Xbox One/Windows 10 cross-play titles are either first party titles (Fable Legends, Halo Wars 2) or indie ones (Gigantic, for example). In terms of exclusive features, there's the Xbox app on Windows 10 which enables Windows gamers to connect with their Xbox friends, but it hardly qualifies as "unique value"; as a Windows 10 user since the Insider program, I've checked the app once or twice.
There's also cross-buy, but once again Sony has been doing that already at least in their PlayStation ecosystem between PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. Finally, Microsoft has spoken a lot about the ability to retain progress in Fable Legends by playing either on Xbox One or Windows 10, and in theory this could be interesting. However, I don't really think that it's going to be very useful in practice - there will always be a preferred platform (likely Windows 10, provided that the hardware is powerful enough) and there would be little reason to play on the other.
What I'd really like from Microsoft
Now that we have established how Mr. Tsunoda's boast is mostly empty, there is indeed something that I'd really like from Microsoft and that would bring "unique value" to gaming in general.
I'm talking about the ability to play with everyone - yes, PC gamers, Xbox gamers and PlayStation gamers all forming a big community. Right now, this dream is prevented by Microsoft's long standing aversion to having their Xbox Live network contaminated with others, such as Sony's PlayStation Network.
This is pretty much why Xbox One gamers haven't received Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn yet. Square Enix intends to keep a unified community, but that wouldn't be possible unless Microsoft gave up on this specific point and as a result, things are still stuck in negotiation.
So, Mr. Tsunoda and Microsoft as a whole, heed this call: open the gates and allow gamers to form one large, happy community! Imagine how great it would be if you could play with all your friends on the next FIFA or Call of Duty, regardless of the platform they chose to buy. Imagine those long waits to find players as a relic of the past.
What do you say, folks? Sounds good, right?