You might have heard the terms “cross-platform” and “cross-play” thrown around in the gaming community. They really refer to functionality helping to bridge the differences between all systems you own: your game consoles, computers, and mobile devices.
More Than One System
Cross-platform is a term used to refer to a piece of software that is compatible with more than one system. For example, the popular media player VLC is compatible with the three major desktop operating systems: Microsoft, Mac OS, and Linux. Cross-platform support can also extend to mobile devices, with many apps available on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Depending on how a particular software is coded, it may require the developer to re-code and repackage the software entirely. Some frameworks allow for developers to enable cross-platform support on their software more smoothly.
There are many reasons to ensure that you’re using a cross-platform piece of software. For example, one of the most significant considerations when using a piece of software is file compatibility. If you’re using a file format that’s only available on one operating system, then you might consider converting it into a format with a reader that works across multiple systems.
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The Rise of Cross-Platform Gaming
Cross-compatibility is a big topic when it comes to gaming. Back in the heat of the console wars from the 1980s to the early 2010s, cross-platform compatibility was a big issue. Major game manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all had titles produced and funded. These games were often developed by their in-house studios or with game studios that they had strategic partnerships with.
Therefore, many games were “exclusives,” only available to buy and play for a single device. When consumers decide which console to buy, they’d have to consider which games are available for specific consoles. Halo would always be on the Xbox, Uncharted would be on Playstation, and Mario would be on Nintendo consoles.
While Nintendo has generally stuck to offering exclusives, Microsoft and Sony have started to offer more cross-platform support. Because of the rise in PC gaming in the last decade, many major exclusive titles have begun making their way to PC and console. Because of the higher performance ceiling on desktops, developers have also started designing their games with PC gamers in mind and downgrading performance when moving to consoles.
Cross-Play, and Why It Matters
Besides the ability to play many different titles with a single device, one of the biggest considerations for those pushing for compatibility across platforms is cross-platform play, often called cross-play. This refers to a feature that allows people playing the same game with different devices to play together in multiplayer modes. For example, people playing Fortnite on Playstation 5 will be able to play against and in tandem with users players using a Windows PC.
As games have been getting less exclusive, the push for cross-play has been growing in the last few years. While there are still some holdouts, like Nintendo, most manufacturers and game developers have started to open up to its implementation. People in the same groups of friends who own different platforms but still want to play with each other benefit greatly from games with these features.
Cross-play also drastically increases the available userbase of a particular game, which is good for both players and developers. An active, large community reduces waiting times, increases the range of skill levels available to play with, and makes it more encouraging for new players to start the game.
Here is a selection of some of the most famous titles that have cross-play support, as of 2021:
The Future of Cross-Platform & Cross-Play
Considering how much the feature made its way into games in the last few years, you’re likely to see more games with cross-platform support. Game studios have started being aware of how beneficial cross-play is to the activity of the player base. We wouldn’t be surprised if most multiplayer games in the future will have cross-play support.
If you’re interested to learn more about cross-platform games you can play with your friends, you should read the roundup of our favorite cross-platform titles.