Online Cross Platform Gaming: Is It Time?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

Online Cross Platform Gaming: Is It Time?

So while looking around for news recently, I spotted a bit that really caught my attention out at IGN. Essentially, it was an opinion piece calling for the removal of the various borders that separate gamers, and allow players who own the same game on different systems to actually play against—or with, depending—each other. That's been enough for some to suggest that it's time to break down those barriers, regardless of the difficulty inherent in such a task.

Even as the IGN post called for the demolition of such barriers, it seemed to quickly recognize just how difficult such a thing would be to actually accomplish. We all know that online gaming is a rapidly growing phenomenon, and one that isn't likely to lose ground any time soon. Bandwidth issues aside, it seems to be fairly common that, when people are able to play in groups online, they do, and they enjoy it to a great degree. But players are only playing against other players of the same platform, not all the total players of the game itself; Xbox One players are playing against other Xbox One players, Wii U against Wii U and so on. There's not a combination of the two—PS4 gamers won't take on PC gamers, for example, unless one of the two switches platforms.

Indeed, it would make no small amount of sense to make this jump. Some have envisioned inter-system league play as a way to draw attention to the consoles, but I say take it a step farther. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo—and maybe even the PC makers—need to get together and offer up some prize money. Think about that for a minute; an e-sports-style game in which players of different systems get together to take each other on. Who's the best “Call of Duty: Ghosts” player; Xbox One? PS4? PC? We could find out here with cash on the line and bragging rights for the systems.

Sounds great, of course, but there are problems. After all, we all know that there are certain technological differences among the systems, so any common system would have to work around these, or work according to the lowest specs available. Why have a system that can handle twice the speed and resolution, for example, voluntarily hobbled so as to allow the other system into the pool? That might encourage the system makers to step things up a bit, but then, it might well result in an arms race in which consoles are replaced annually instead of every six or seven years.

However, we've already seen some intermingling. Games like “Portal 2” have connected PC and PlayStation gamers, and “Universe at War: Earth Assault” gave PC and Xbox 360 players some connection. Indeed, Microsoft's recent moves to better connect the PC and the Xbox may well suggest that such gaming is in the making. But then, it's not necessarily the case that the connection will extend to gaming, or to inter-platform play.

So there are some clear advantages to such play; extending the life of current games provides a better value for gamers, and offering up more and varied play experiences tends to extend life nicely, not to mention the inter-system rivalries that could be played out around the same game. But it doesn't look like it's going to happen in any significant way for some time to come, and that's a shame. It's an opportunity being almost deliberately overlooked by some reports, and it's about time that we can intermingle the systems more effectively.

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