A few days ago, we learned that Microsoft will now allow Xbox developers to connect their games to networks outside of Xbox Live and Windows 10.
Rocket League will be among the first to benefit, joining the Xbox One version of the frenetic soccer cars hybrid to users of the PC version — massively expanding the matchmaking pool in the process.
Microsoft effectively invited Sony and its PlayStation Network to join the party, and now the Xbox's chief rival has responded, appearing open to the idea.
In a blog post on Xbox Wire, ID@Xbox champion Chris Charla stated that Xbox games will be able to connect with "other consoles" and PC networks.
"In addition to natively supporting cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10 games that use Xbox Live, we're enabling developers to support cross-network play as well. This means players on Xbox One and Windows 10 using Xbox Live will be able to play with players on different online multiplayer networks--including other consoles and PC networks."
In a statement issued to GameSpot, Sony praised their efforts to bring cross-platform play to consoles, touting the MMO Final Fantasy 11, which featured cross-play as early as 2002. The console giant said it would be happy to discuss cross-platform play with "any publishers or developers", which suggests that Rocket League's player pool could eventually expand even further.
"PlayStation has been supporting cross-platform play between PC on several software titles starting with Final Fantasy 11 on PS2 and PC back in 2002. We would be happy to have the conversation with any publishers or developers who are interested in cross-platform play."
Cross-platform play has an interesting history on Xbox. The game mentioned by Sony, Final Fantasy 11, was also available for the Xbox 360 — complete with cross-play between PS3, PS2, and PC. In the pre-World of Warcraft era, Final Fantasy 11 was instrumental in bringing MMOs to the mainstream, and ensuring the title had access to the largest player-base possible was paramount.
FF11's successor, the MMO Final Fantasy 14: Realm Reborn, features cross-play between PS4 and PC, and Square Enix have famously stated that the only reason there's no Xbox One version is that Microsoft wouldn't allow players from different networks to share the same servers.
Thankfully, it now seems that Microsoft is fully prepared to allow that to happen:
@Alunmufc That would be great, we'd love to have FF14 on Xbox One.— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) March 14, 2016
Microsoft has been exploring the realms of cross-platform play for quite a while, but only for internal titles. Gigantic and Killer Instinct are both slated for cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10. Now that they've opened up the system to extend to third-party networks, that is only going to benefit gamers and developers whose games depend on large player pools for things like faster skill-based matchmaking algorithms. It'll also massively benefit MMOs like the aforementioned Final Fantasy 14, who depend on thriving communities of players to remain fun.
If you're interested, we discussed some of the benefits (and potential downsides) of cross-platform play on this week's episode of our Xbox podcast, the #OneCast, check that out right over here!
What games would you like to see pick up cross-platform play?