The year was 2012 and I had just transitioned to a new school. A group of friends that had integrated with me on the first week were excited to party up and play Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. This was a choice that was made over responsibly doing homework over the weekend. I too wanted to revel in this lack of responsibility and expressed my interest to waste the next few days playing zombies and running around Nuketown. Unfortunately, the only system I had was an Xbox 360 and the group played on PlayStation 3.
After what was a largely lonely weekend of doing assignments, I traded in my Xbox 360 for a PlayStation 3.
Thanks to cross-play, this won’t happen again
I’m sure that I’m not the only person who had to transition towards a specific console ecosystem since a large majority of their friends played on something different. Most (rightfully) assume that first-party exclusives are the driving force for adopting hardware. Yet, things have changed after going through two separate generations that have been enraptured in multiplayer experiences being the most exciting pieces of software to release. What used to be reliant on the software, is now reliant on your friend group and where they want to play. Towards the end of this particular generation, I’ve been lucky enough to bridge gaps by owning both platforms. Yet, in order to afford those both a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One I had to work a dayjob. Suddenly I no longer had the time to engross myself in Destiny 2 with even one group of friends.
Apart from financial woes, the lack of cross-play as a standard has impacted matchmaking. In order to be properly connected with someone who has the same skillset as me, a game needed to have as many players as possible. As the years past a title’s release move onward, the pool of people that the network chooses from dwindles. The inclusion of cross-play in titles such as Rocket League and Street Fighter V have ensured a level of fairness to playing competitively. Something which wouldn’t be as possible when comparing to other titles which have been active for a long time.
Fortnite changed everything
I have a love and hate relationship with Fortnite, but I can’t deny that it’s the biggest game in the world. The battle-royale title made waves within the free-to-play market, streaming, and even Halloween stores. Perhaps its greatest innovation, however, was the guerilla tactic from developer Epic Games to force Sony’s hand into cross-play. On September 16th, 2017 there was a “bug” found in Fortnite’s then recently released Battle Royale mode that allowed Xbox One and PS4 players within the same instance.
This came as a shock to me and many others in gaming. While it was quietly known in corners of the industry that cross-play was as simple as flipping a switch, the large majority of those in the community had believed it would be an impossible effort for any title. What Fortnite proved with their bug, was that the impossible was indeed possible. Soon enough, PlayStation 4 players were playing on the same servers as PC, Xbox, and even Nintendo Switch users.
The future of multiplayer cross-play gaming
Less than two years after Fortnite’s bug, countless titles are embracing the now opened doors to multiplatform multiplayer. Dauntless, among its over 6,000,000 players that have logged into the game within the first week has celebrated that over 60% of matches utilized cross-play support that was available at launch. While existing IPs such as Call of Duty will feature cross-play with their latest Modern Warfare iteration. As this swansong of innovation in the console generation takes hold, there’s finally an end to the situation I found myself in those many years ago.