11 March 2019
PC or Xbox? iOS or Android? These are the latest variations on a type of question we’ve been asking since gaming began. Commodore or Atari? Mega Drive or Super Nintendo? As gaming has become more advanced, the differences between the systems have become negligible. Today it is as much a question of habit and brand loyalty as anything else, a little like choosing between a Mercedes or a BMW, where car fanatics will argue for hours, but for the rest of us, either will do the same job equally well.
Of course, the point at which this parallel breaks down is when you consider that a Mercedes or a BMW will drive on the same road and use the same fuel. This, in essence is the gaming gulf that cross-play, or cross-platform matching seeks to address.
With the rise in popularity for mobile gaming, it is natural that gamers do not want to find themselves in two camps. Android and iOS have more or less cornered the market as far as operating systems are concerned. For those playing relatively simple games such as those on social media platforms or the various CA no deposit casinos, it shouldn’t matter what OS you are using. However, mobile games are getting more complex, and represent the logical next step in the world of eSport.
Some of the early games, like Phase 10, had Android and iOS players routed through different game servers, and therefor unable to find each other. More recent releases like PUBG, Vainglory and Hearthstone have been sure to include cross platform compatibility from the outset
The PC and Xbox debate
If only things were so clear cut in the console and PC sectors. Recent Xbox Play Anywhere games, including Aragami and Gears of War 4 make a big deal of the fact that Xbox players can duke it out with Windows 10 users and vice versa. It sounds perfect, but according to some, it creates as many problems as it solves.
Ostensibly, the main benefit is the facility to take on buddies who are devotees to different platforms. In other words, you can finally line your BMW up alongside your friend’s Mercedes and see who is fastest off the lights. Also, however, cross-platform compatibility opens up a larger pool of players. That might not matter much for the biggest titles, but for those with lower populations (Halo Wars 2 springs to mind), it is a great way to achieve a critical mass.
On the other hand, there are risks associated with this kind of cross-play. One of the biggest concerns is that it will expose Xbox users to hackers – it is a little like the argument that the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France would expose the island nation to rat-borne diseases like rabies that had been previously absent. Another concern is that for most games, those with a keyboard and mouse have an inherent control advantage over gamers with only a controller.
Ultimately, cross-play has to be a good thing, provided adequate safety controls are in place. For games where there is a manifest advantage of one control mechanism over another, it seems plain that developers will simply choose not to go down the cross-play route.