Xbox VP Says Cross-Play ‘Isn’t Going Away’

Cross-platform play is an increasingly hot topic in video games lately, and now Xbox and Windows VP Mike Ybarra is returning to the fray to encourage the topic to stay hot. Ybarra responded on Twitter to an editorial criticizing Sony for avoiding PlayStation 4 and Xbox One cross-play. Ybarra supplemented the argument with insight from Microsoft’s own research regarding market demand for cross-play. His final thought is particularly pointed: “This isn’t going away.”

Ybarra’s tweet references Microsoft’s data, which he says supports the idea that more people want cross-play:

“Our data shows people want larger multiplayer pools of people to play with and the choice to play together. This isn’t going away.”

The first part of Ybarra’s tweet is intuitive. Of course most players want larger pools of people to play with in multiplayer. More people results in faster matchmaking, more vibrant communities, more content from developers, and myriad other benefits.

The second part of Ybarra’s tweet is more ambiguous. “The choice to play together,” is a very political approach to cross-play. It’s the fine print acknowledging that there are players who may not want cross-play enabled in their games, whether due to balance or other worries. But Microsoft’s done the work in this regard already. Xbox implemented cross-play in games including Gears of War 4 with the choice to opt out. Overall, it’s a very PR friendly way of positioning the move for cross-play between consoles.

Sony is so far weathering the storm regarding the cry for enabling cross-play between consoles, but the storm is only growing bigger. Microsoft enabling cross-play between PC and Xbox for Microsoft-published titles is one thing. But now third-party games like Rocket League are joining in on the fun, with others including Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds considering cross-play as well, and Minecraft cross-play will soon work on mobile devices. Even beyond that, the Nintendo Switch is joining in on the cross-play action with Xbox. Cross-play is spreading fast.

It doesn’t help that most of Sony’s comments regarding cross-play are arguably silly and obtuse. Jim Ryan, head of PlayStation global sales, said cross-play exposed children to “external influences” outside the “PlayStation curated universe.” Or how Sony said it’s supportive of cross-play by giving the example of MMO Final Fantasy 11 on PlayStation 2.

Overall the concept of cross-platform play on console remains a tense situation that shows just how deep the competitive divide remains between PlayStation and Microsoft. Sony’s dominance in the current console market gives them plenty of room to be stubborn, but decades of console competition have shown small issues left ignored can end momentum very quickly.

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