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Microsoft and Nintendo collaboration hints at an exciting future — but not for PlayStation

Minecraft Nintendo Switch
Minecraft Nintendo Switch (Image credit: Windows Central)

Minecraft has been a pioneer in numerous ways, but since joining Microsoft, it has become something of a focal point for cross-platform play. Minecraft is the only game that allows gamers from Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows Mixed Reality, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and now Nintendo Switch, to all play together in a shared world. It's the culmination of Microsoft's "intelligent edge" philosophy, where the company focuses on providing services to any compatible device you own, regardless of the platform or form factor.

Of course, there is one major player who refuses to play ball.

Microsoft and Nintendo vs. Sony PlayStation

The new marketing collaboration between Microsoft and Nintendo showcases cross-platform play and could indicate even more collaborative marketing this holiday season. Ultimately, the Xbox One and Nintendo Switch aren't in direct competition with one another. The Switch offers portability, something the Xbox can't, and the Xbox One (and especially the Xbox One X) offers high-fidelity "AAA" gaming, which the Switch often misses out on due to its specs and form factor.

Highlighting the fact that Nintendo Switch and Xbox can play nice together gives the impression of a wider, more flexible ecosystem.

The partnership here is smart, in a console industry that sees PlayStation with the largest current install base. Highlighting the fact that Nintendo Switch and Xbox can play nice together gives the impression of a wider, more flexible ecosystem than that of Sony's PlayStation, which has been in the press multiple times for refusing to allow cross-platform play.

Sony made mainstream news with its "hijacking" of players' Fortnite accounts, which get locked out from Nintendo Switch and Xbox cross-play the moment they become connected to PlayStation Network. Sony responded by championing its install base, which sits around a reported 80 million, while highlighting the fact that Fortnite isn't truly "free to play" on Xbox since it requires an Xbox Live subscription.

Sony is stuck between a rock and a hard place over this Fortnite issue. By allowing cross-platform play, it is potentially giving up the powerful purchase argument of "my friend has this console, which means I need it, too." Sony's headstart in 2013 snowballed granting it pole position, and while it might seem like a solid business strategy now, its refusal to budge could give Microsoft a killer advantage as we move into the next generation.

A massive opportunity for Microsoft and Xbox

Microsoft is setting up a cloud streaming service to bring "console-quality" gaming to your devices, whether that's a phone, a tablet, or a Nintendo Switch. If Microsoft can lock down game streaming to the Nintendo Switch, Xbox might be the only way you can experience some of those "AAA" games on Nintendo's svelte handheld platform. At that point, the ideal console setup might be to have both an Xbox One and a Nintendo Switch, or at least a Nintendo Switch and an Xbox subscription.

These early collaborations between Microsoft and Nintendo could be the tip of a much larger strategic iceberg.

The PlayStation ecosystem would be locked out of a far more pervasive intelligent edge cross-platform gaming world, which incorporates not only Nintendo but also iOS and Android. The size of that ecosystem would utterly dwarf PlayStation's 80 million-strong install base, potentially reaching hundreds of millions (or more) people. Developers prioritize the ecosystem with the most reach, after all.

Sony has its own game streaming service in the form of PlayStation Now, but it hasn't really achieved much headway when it comes to mainstreaming this technology. And frankly, it probably can't. Microsoft has more than 50 data centers around the world, dedicated undersea cabling, and billions of dollars worth of investment in cloud delivery technology and research to bring game streaming to the masses.

I'd say these early collaborations between Microsoft and Nintendo could be the tip of a much larger strategic iceberg that will reveal itself in the months and years to come. And I know, for sure, which ecosystem I'd rather be invested in right now.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

40 Comments
  • But PlayStation is for the players!!! 😛 I have an Xbox, PS4 & Nintendo Switch, but of course this isn't ideal, I actually had a little cousin who was willing to sell his Xbox One S in place of a PlayStation for that same reason that his friends have PlayStation, but luckily he changed his mind because he was already in the Xbox ecosystem. But it goes to show that what Sony are doing may be working! If I didn't have a PS4 I may be tempted to buy one for games like the last of us and Detroit maybe even God of War, maybe they should believe in themselves a little more, but then restricting thier players gives them some back up I guess!!!! Glad to hear about cross play with other consoles though, who knows, might even get a Mario game on Xbox!!!! Yeah right!!!! 😛
  • Detroit... tiresome just by looking at the gameplay. Typical AVG (wz no inventory), more niche than Telltale's games but cost more to make.
    The female protagonist walks like (an upgraded version) C3PO XD btw, Sony will not give in. They had a good start grabbing most users, and ppl'll drag more ppl in. Giving users away would be silly. If you can sync your save / account between all platforms...
    Remember, Sony's HW company. Right now I'm just excited about docking a WoA on my gamepad for XPA gaming, if more games can sync progress between a xbox and Switch, I'd buy one right now.
  • Detroit, still better rated than the last major XB1 console exclusives though...
  • you mean like state of decay 2 which is rated the same as Detroit, but out selling GoW.
  • While being on Game Pass might I add
  • State of decay 2 Metacritic score: 66
    Detroit become human Metacritic score: 78 Outselling in the second month of GoW and only in the US might I add.
  • Politicians get bored. How long until one of them gets the idea to go after Sony on anti-competitive grounds due to the whole Fortnite account locking? It could be seen as Sony using their dominate position to force people to use their platform by locking out the consumer ability to port their data. Even iOS, Windows, and Android play nice in that regard.
  • Good point. Those Fortnite Accounts are exactly that; Fortnite Accounts. They are not Sony PlayStation accounts. Therefore, I don't think they have the right to lock-out a 3rd Party-Account. One should think there will eventually be a law suit.
  • It's one thing to prevent/lock out a 3rd party account from accessing your network (not allowing Xbox or Switch to share data or play with your own ecosystem) but to prevent two unrelated 3rd parties to work together is wrong. How can Sony justify not allowing Xbox and Switch to cross save and play just because someone has a PSN account linked by an intermediary (Fortnight)? Also the ridiculousness that if you find this out by accident and try removing your PS4 account link you have all your progress and saved date reset on your account thereby resetting your progress ON ALL THE OTHER PLATFORMS. I won't even mention that the Switch remains locked out from cross play even after your PS4 account is unlinked. Seriously WTF.
  • "I won't even mention that the Switch remains locked out from cross play even after your PS4 account is unlinked" Maybe a Lawsuit will be initiated by Nintendo. Either way, I'm sure there a quite a few PS4 fans being a little pissed off when they reach for their Android and iPhone devices to try to join in the Cross-Platform fun only to find themselves left out in the cold. Maybe this will be the start of the PlayStation falling out of favor in the realm of Gaming Consoles? Right now, it looks like the only thing that could unseat the PlayStation is Sony themselves. Did they just take step Number 1 down that path?
  • I think that's exactly what Microsoft and Nintendo are waiting for, Sony to kick their own arses out of the top spot.
  • Good article. I also think Collaboration is the way forward for the world of Internet.
  • How awesome would it be if they eventually came out with Xbox versions of Nintendo properties? I know they won't, but it would be awesome. Especially if Xbox could upscale things. Wishful thinking, lol
  • Would Love to See Mario Odyssey use the same engine as Halo Infinite!!!
  • You can compile your own emulator and sideload it in any xbox one... XD
  • wow promoting emulators...
  • I don't mess with that stuff on my Xbox, I keep it clean. And I'm talking about high def stuff, not original 8-bit clarity, lol. I can get that on my original NES, SNES and N64.
  • Master chief in SSBM means the relationship is deeper than you thinking. I'm excited for this.
  • Interesting.
  • 😶. That would be freaking awesome!
  • Good news. It keeps getting better and better for Xbox. And Nintendo is doing very well.
  • Sony have great studios that release a bunch of fantastic games. However, they are taking so many anti-consumer decisions that I find hard to support their ecosystems. I can see Microsoft and Nintendo collaborating. I am pretty sure Microsoft would be happy to sell the Live service to Nintendo and Switch players would be very satisfied. For now, I only wish Nintendo would finish the Rare collection, publishing the SNES's Donkey Kong Country games, as well as Kong 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and Star Fox Adventures. At the same time, Microsoft could free Banjo to play on Smash and publish the Banjo games as well as Diddy Kong Racing, Joanna Dark, and Conker in the Switch.
  • All great stuff and would throw money at them for it. I also feel they both would be able to print cash if they make a deal to re-release Goldeneye. The nostalgia for that game so astronomically high it's un-real. Hell if they upgrade it and release it on both platforms with cross play enabled the internets' heads would explode.
  • "The PlayStation ecosystem would be locked out of a far more pervasive intelligent edge cross-platform gaming world, which incorporates not only Nintendo but also iOS and Android. The size of that ecosystem would utterly dwarf PlayStation's 80 million-strong install base, potentially reaching hundreds of millions (or more) people. "
    The main flaw in this article is right here.
    For a game like fortnite PS4 does cross play with PC, iOS, Android and Mac.
    The Switch and XB1 does it with each other and with these same platforms.
    So the PS4 player have potentially more players since there are more PS4 owners than XB1 and switch combined. Also, ofc MS is trying hard on minecraft. They are actually counting switch, ios, android players playing minecraft when they announce the XB live active user. For YEARS, they have done almost anything to support cross-play. PS4 has way more cross-play games on non-Sony platform than MS with non-MS platforms.
    Because of their poor performance XB1 sold a lot less than PS4. And now they are using this to remove the "I want a PS4 because my friend has a PS4" argument.
    They are trying to look like the good guys here, but they are far from being that since they hardly did anything to support cross play and all this seems just marketing or a PR stunt.
    And while they are at it they would love to get the PS4 minecraft players part of their XB live active user numbers.
  • I should've done more to highlight the fact that Sony is locking progression to its platform. I presume these represent some of the issues stopping FFXIV from hitting Xbox One as well, Sony probably doesn't want players roaming with their stuff to other platforms. PC is fine of course, cus the markets don't intersect as much as it does between Xbox and PlayStation. When you're investing in Microsoft's or Nintendo's ecosystem, your digital stuff is yours to take to any intelligent edge device you choose. When you invest in PlayStation, Sony is saying "your stuff is ours, and we'll choose where you can take it, and you can shut up and accept it." The active user base of Switch + Xbox + PC + mobile will be far greater than PS4 + PC + mobile, I thought that was obvious.
  • "When you're investing in Microsoft's or Nintendo's ecosystem, your digital stuff is yours to take to any intelligent edge device you choose. When you invest in PlayStation, Sony is saying "your stuff is ours, and we'll choose where you can take it, and you can shut up and accept it." The active user base of Switch + Xbox + PC + mobile will be far greater than PS4 + PC + mobile, I thought that was obvious."
    You're making it sound as though buying anything for XB1 will be playable on Switch and vice versa.
    That's really not the case. We are talking about an handful of games. And even buying something on wii U digitally doesn't mean you can play it on switch. I can't play Recore on my Windows 7 or 8 PCs. I'm waiting for AOE DE to release on steam because I actually want to play it on my Win8 laptop. If you want to talk about Play anywhere, PS has a lot of games that are cross buy and cross play within the Sony ecosystem. MS didn't really invent cross-buy/cross-play. When I buy a game or an add-on for a platform, I'm buying it to play on THAT platform. That's how it is and that's how it's always been. This is the case for a large majority of games and content on any platform. This is the norm.
    I mean I can't buy Zelda and play it on XB1 or buy Recore and play it on the Switch. You did compare the number of XB + Switch + PC + Mobile to the "utterly dwarf PlayStation's 80 million-strong install base". But you didn't say that the "utterly dwarf PlayStation's 80 million-strong install base" also plays with PC and mobile players. And the utterly dwarf PlayStation's 80 million-strong install base is still larger than the XB1 + Switch install base. We have not idea what the future will look like...
  • Thank you for writing that comment. It's good to bring things back to reality and not intertwine the current reality with wishes for the next step of development.
  • You forget that unlinking a Fortnite account from a PS4 wipe ALL progress from ALL platforms it is also connected with so therefore it makes no difference how many players they have.
  • I guess Sony forgot to say that you need to have a PS Plus account to play online on the PS4. Their argument is only true for playstation 3 😶.
  • In case you didn't know, free2play games on PS4 are actually free.
    Unlike on XB1, you don't need to pay to play fortnite.
  • Fortnite itself is free on Xbox One, you're talking about Xbox Live Gold which is required whether the game is free to play or not and always has been the case. Probably also the reason why Xbox Live didn't go down after the second hack as they learned from it and patched the flaw in the system, Microsoft know that we pay for the service and that unplanned outages are unacceptable. Sony on the other hand CBA as you don't pay for their online service.
  • lol that's what they want you to believe. Because XB live also goes down and is not the full proof system you're trying to imply.
    Paying to play a free2play game. LOL
    MS should remove that and gamers should be for that move. I see that people like you are against it...
  • @guest_aotf. Interesting, I recall awhile ago trying to play/install some free to play games on the ps4 (before the release of the ps4 pro) and I kept getting prompted to sign up to ps plus to continue. Was trying to set up a guest account with some free to play games.
  • I'm not sure what game that was or what you were trying to do exactly but you could always play free2play without the need of PS+.
    https://gamerant.com/ps4-free-to-play-games-ps-plus/
  • thanks to MS and Nintendo...meanwhile at sony: "this is (was) for the players"
  • Cross platform play "for the players, just not PS4 players."
  • Yet PS4 players have much more cross platform play than XB1 and switch players. :)
  • Do you work for sony?
  • Nope, but do you guys work for MS? The thing I see is incredibly dishonest stuff in order to promote a certain company even if it's lying and misleading fellow consumers. Does Sony deserve criticism? Why not. But I find it very hypocritical that it's MS and fans of MS/XB xho are making all the noise.
    Fans of the company that does MUCH less cross-play. This is like a XB1 fan who never criticised MS for the lack of exclusives suddenly decided to trash the PS4 for the lack of exclusives in fall 2018. Most of the people who are crying here don't really care about cross-play. For them it's ammunation to fight a fictive war.
  • So it will be like you can play on whatever device, stream from whatever console, whatever game, against any console/pc/phone, with other console companies making profit as well as microsoft with their ''bridge'' and users getting what they want.
    Very nice.
    Now just them to not to forget VR/AR gaming, thats future, Microsoft?...