More often than not we decided which console we are going to go with based on what is available in the gaming library. Each system has its own exclusive titles that help make the decision for you. Years ago when I decided I wanted a home console so I could play the Final Fantasy series, there was no question about which one I was going to get since it was only available on the Sony system. However, there are titles that see a release on the Xbox, Playstation, and yes, even the Wii U. When faced with that situation, we then usually consider what our friends have so we can play those games with them. But what if that wasn't the case? What if a multiplayer online game allowed users to play together regardless of what system they were on? Would the work required to make that happen be worth the payoff?
The first cross-platform game I personally came across was "Scramble with Friends", a word game available on the iOS and Android platforms. Most of my friends happened to have an iPad or iPhone, while at my place of work we use an Android based phone. With Cross-Platform functionality it didn't matter. I was able to add my iPhone using friends and enjoy word making matches until the cows came home. Suddenly the iOS vs Android issue was non-existent. Not only was the application available to both groups, but they were able to play together in the cyber world of ones and zeros. Could such a thing ever exist in the console world?
We have seen functionality of this type to a limited degree. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate allows 3DS and Wii U players to hunter together. What about a true Brand X playing with Brand Z cross over? Perhaps we are seeing the first step in that direction with Pure Chess by Ripstone. Phil Gaskell, the Co-Founder and Creative Director recently revealed what I believe to be an exciting feature of the title.
I can exclusively reveal that the game supports cross-platform play. That means that not only can Wii U players play against 3DS players, but they will also be able to play against tablet and smartphone players too! All they will need to do is register in game for a Pure Chess account (a process we've made as simple, safe and easy as possible) and then start issuing challenges to their friends or even to strangers on the ranking boards! The beauty of registering for a Pure Chess account is if you own both the smartphone/tablet and console versions you can log in and continue your multiplayer game on any of those devices seamlessly.Chess has been around since Moses was a baby and most of us know enough of the rules to play a game with someone. Chess-by-mail is perhaps one of the first examples of asynchronous game play. Two players set up a chess board in different locations and then communicate the moves they make through the mail. Granted playing chess this way will make a game take forever, especially if you are using the age old envelope and stamp method, but it got the job done. Because the nature of chess is turn based, this allows Ripstone's servers the time it needs to take the information sent to it by one device and then convert it into the language needed for the opposing device to understand. Is technology and programming reaching a point where such conversion could support a live game?
Can you imagine an open world MMORPG where every gamer on the planet, regardless of what system they had, could be a part? Of course, each system could have its own special items so that companies could still brag about what is available exclusively on their system. But instead of it being a divisive factor, it would be a method to draw the different communities together. Say for example your party is having difficulty overcoming a particular obstacle and someone says, "We need an Xbox player that has the Flame of Zion Bow to shoot through that rope and drop the bridge." Then, instead of avoiding each other you are searching people out that operate an different console. Some areas could be designed so that you can only access them if you formed a party containing members of each faction.
Some of the things that get us most excited are when we see things working together that we don't usually see. The Avengers movie brought several heroes from the Marvel universe together and many are begging for DC to answer with a Justice League movie. It isn't a coincidence that Avengers made over 1.5 billion dollars. A venue in which the best of Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony were working together instead of trying to set themselves above each other could be just as profitable. So what stands in the way?
Quickly we could point to system protocols not being compatible. There is no way to get information shared between all of these different machines fast enough to allow for a live game to happen. More than likely there is truth to that, however I believe the much larger problem is getting the companies to allow it to happen. Nintendo is ultra protective of its IPs and its holding in general, Microsoft wants its version to be better than the others or it isn't going to play. I'm reminded of a peace summit that was ultimately cancelled because the warring nations could not agree on the shape of the table they would sit at to discuss the possibility of a treaty.
Personally, I don't care what anyone is playing on, I just want to play.
I'm Scott and those are my thoughts, what are yours? Would you like to see Cross-Platform features become more standard in new titles? Let us know in the forum.