On March 14, 2016, Microsoft announced a potentially ground-breaking move. The company is opening up cross-network play for the Xbox One, which means that gamers on other devices, like the PS4 or a PC, could play online together. What does this mean for the gaming world and for PS4 gamers in particular? Let's break it down.
Cross-platform play is already available, since Microsoft allows Xbox One and Windows 10 gamers to play together. However, with the cross-network capability, we're talking about PS4 owners being able to play against their Xbox One counterparts, in spite of the difference in systems. Breaching the boundaries between rival consoles like the Xbox One and PS4 has never occurred on this level before.
Here's what it would look like. Imagine a gamer in one home with a PS4 on the PlayStation Network, joining a game with a couple of other PS4 players and a couple of owners of the Xbox One, playing via Xbox Live. It's a mind-boggling scenario, but one that could become reality in the near future.
It's going to be tough to find a game with this ability at first. The initial title to carry the cross-network functionality is Rocket League. This action-packed, adrenaline-pumping soccer game comes from Psyonix, and it has the ability to connect players whether they are online via PC or Xbox One. Gamers could play through other online networks, too, as long as those networks step up to the plate and open the cross-network doors as Microsoft has.
It's a step forward for Rocket League, bringing the game into the limelight just as Psyonix and Twitch have announced their new collaboration to develop the Rocket League Championship Series. The RLCS would be an official competitive league, in which players can sign up to compete. For this first season of the series, trios of players can register for the opportunity to win and snag a chunk of the $75,000 prize pool.
Challenging the Status Quo
In a way, this move on Microsoft's part is a challenge to Sony and to game developers in general. It's an invitation to cross the lines that have so firmly divided the console gaming community. To really make this happen, game developers have to design their new titles with the potential to cross the networks effectively. That means more work for coders and designers as they sort out how to make it all work smoothly.
Let's suppose that Sony accepts the challenge and moves toward cross-network play for fighting games. If you don't like the idea of gaming with Xbox Live players, you will most likely have the option to stay within your own network.
And even if Sony does decide to step forward and move toward closing the cross-network gap, not all fighting games will have this functionality. Certain games are unique to the PS4 and would lose their exclusivity if they were included in this new open-door policy. However, gamers can hold onto the hope that more mainstream games will build this functionality into their systems, so that friends with different consoles can enjoy gaming together.