By C.B. Arun Kumar
Deputy Director, Pearl Edge
From the dawn of computer gaming in the 1980s when big Japanese companies like Atari, Nintendo and Sega ruled the roost with their platform specific games to modern times with the powerful PS5 and XBox-Series X consoles, games have been linked to specific hardware and exclusivity to powerful corporations and their gaming empires.
The recent rise in cross-platform play, which is the ability for players on different gaming systems to play together is rapidly changing this decades long trend of platform exclusivity with significant emerging gains for the global gaming community. Lets take a look at the various ways in which cross-platform gaming is becoming a dominant feature of the Gaming Industry:
- Larger Player Base: Online multiplayer games require a large single shared pool of gamers to facilitate more populated sessions with quicker matchmaking. Games like Fortnite and PubG attribute their success to massive pools of connected gamers.
- Longevity of Game Titles: With a huge combined player base across platforms, games can maintain active online communities that outlast the style of a game and purly depend on thrill the community finds in gameplay. Games like World of Warcraft and EVE Online are typical example of titles that have almost survived two decades of existance.
- Social Interactions: Players often form real-world friendships with others who have different platforms. Cross-platform play allows these friends to play together in the gaming realm leading to greater online bonding and fostering increased social interaction and community engagement. This is especially true of school kids who are compelled to use whatever platform their parents provided them with to play with their friends online.
- Reduction in Fragmentation: Fragmentation can be a huge problem in the gaming world, cross-platform play unifies gamers and lets them play their favourite games together, reducing gamer fragmentation.
- Platform Neutrality: Players no longer need to choose the same platform where their player friends are. They can all use whatever device they have on hand, be it a mobile phone, a handheld console, a laptop or a desktop to enjoy a game with their friends. Typical examples of such games are Minecraft, Apex Legends, Rocket League and of course Fortnite that can be played from any device
- Unified Experience: The players in Cross-Platform play have a consistent gaming experience as players enjoy the same features and mechanics across platform and get to keep their rewards irrespective of the device they are playing from.
- Viability for Developers: For game developers, having a single combined player base can lead to increased revenue and consistent monetization especially with regard to in-app purchases also known as micro-transactions. Since microtransactions are the cornerstone of the modern gaming industry, this is a huge advantage of Cross-Platform Play. many companies incorporate this into their game mechanics where players who make in-app purchases have huge advantages over players who dont.
- Consumer Goodwill: Cross-platform play is highly desired by the gaming community and companies that promote it are rewarded by the consumers with their loyalty resulting in better public relations and potential sales boosts.
- Future Proofing: As cloud gaming increasingly becomes the default gaming mode in the future, it will be the gameplay itself and not the hardware spec that differentiates the gaming experience for players. At this point we will have true Cross-Platform gaming where what you use as your platform does not in any way significantly alter the gaming experience.
Despite cross-platform play having some challenges about how to balance gameplay across platforms that use different inputs such as controllers, keyboards mouse or touch, industry tends suggest that the gains in player base unification and the joys of shared gameplay far outweigh such challenges.
It is very likely that unless custom consoles bring some significant advantages to gameplay that online cannot possibly provide, more an more gamers will simply opt for Cross-Platform gaming making dedicated game consoles disappear into history just like the compact digital cameras that were vanquished by smart phones.