Will Cross-Platform Gaming Become the New Standard?

Cross-platform multiplayer is the gold standard of modern gaming.

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This article is sponsored by ExpressVPN.

For many years now, we’ve seen multiplayer games start to embrace the functionality of “cross-platform” multiplayer. This allows players on different platforms to play the same game with each other. In previous generations, online infrastructure between consoles was too different to facilitate connectivity between PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. Nowadays, however, a surprisingly large number of titles, both big and small, let people play together regardless of their designated platform.

The benefits of cross-platform multiplayer should be clear to anyone: you don’t need to worry about buying the correct console to play with or against your friends. This is especially important to men, who, in a recent survey conducted by ExpressVPN, stated they play games online to stay in touch with friends. In the past, console hardware was so fundamentally different from each other that it made some sense why Xbox couldn’t connect with a PS2. In modern times, however, game development has become more standardized and online infrastructure more cross-compatible than locking things to a specific platform, which simply seems antiquated. Smaller indie teams might not be able to implement cross-platform, but major triple-A releases should have enough resources to include the feature as standard.

What started the trend of embracing cross-platform play? It’s hard to point to one specific game, but the highest-profile release to implement the feature was 2019’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty franchise has been one of the largest properties in gaming for more than a decade now, and it famously had exclusivity deals for multiplayer content on both Xbox 360 and PS4 many moons ago. As calls for cross-platform compatibility started to get louder, Activision Blizzard finally listened to fans and implemented it in the Modern Warfare reboot. This helped combine the massive audience into one online pool and gave players competition that wouldn’t dwindle due to a lack of interest on a particular platform.

Another huge push came with Fortnite. Epic Games was eager to embrace cross-platform functionality and implemented it in Fortnite for PC, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in 2018. Still, the PS4 was famously left out of the equation due to some short-sighted decisions from Sony. Eventually, Sony relented, and Epic’s massive battle royale title became the first game to feature cross-platform functionality across all major platforms (and even mobile). Other games were quick to follow, including Minecraft, and it seemed the gears were in motion for this huge shift.

Since 2019, games such as Destiny 2, Among Us, Borderlands 3, Dirt 5, Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, and Tetris Effect Connected embrace cross-platform play. Even fighting games have joined in, with Mortal Kombat 11 featuring the functionality for Xbox and PlayStation players and Street Fighter 6 putting PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S players against each other. It’s still not a given that new titles will feature cross-platform multiplayer, but it is more common now than it has ever been in the past.

We’re long past the days of Microsoft trying to force Xbox functionality onto Windows with “Games for Windows Live” and only supporting a couple of cross-platform games. We’re also beyond limited cross-platform exclusivity, as seen in Street Fighter V. Gaming has become so much bigger and spread across so many different platforms that publishers have been practically forced to implement the feature, or their games will look outdated.

- This article was updated on May 31st, 2023