Cross platform multiplayer gameplay is something that many people have wanted for a long time. Why not let everyone who has a copy of a given title play together online? Where’s the harm in that? I’ve personally wanted cross platform multiplayer for a long time. When all of my friends were buying XBOX 360’s, I bought a PS3 because it had the games that I wanted. That meant that even if there were games that were built for both systems, we couldn’t play them online together because I was on a Sony console and that were on a Microsoft console. God forbid I get Sony chocolate in their Microsoft peanut butter (or vice versa).
Mobile platforms have always been this way also. I remember a friend of mine telling me that I needed to get Tiny Tower on my iPhone so that we could compete with each other at building skyscrapers. While he was showing me his tower and how he competed with a friend of ours who lives a couple hours away, another friend who was sitting in the room with us could not compete because he owned an Android phone and, despite the game playing identically, we had no way to play against him.
Now Google has decided that they want to change the way we play games on our phones and tablets. In an announcement released just in time for the Game Developers Conference, Google has stated that they are expanding Google Play Games services to iOS. Play Games is the backend that provides online gaming capabilities to many Android games, and will now be something that iOS developers can take advantage of. If a game developer decides to include this tech into their game, it would allow iOS and Android gamers to be able to play games together for the first time. And according to what can only be called rumors at this point, Google isn’t the only one wanting in on some cross platform multiplayer lovin’.
Microsoft has built Xbox Live support into Windows Phone, allowing their users to play games against each other using their gamer tags and tracking scores and wins. According to rumors, Microsoft will be making an announcement similar to the one Google has already made, saying that they will be providing back end support for other platforms than just Windows Phone.
This makes sense to me on both Google and Microsoft’s parts. Finding a way to unify gamers on different platforms by allowing them to play games together would be a major step for mobile gaming. Obviously not all games will support cross platform multiplayer, but all it would take to cement this as something everyone starts doing is one big title. One big name developer creates a cross platform game that supports multiplayer across platforms and that’s the ballgame. Everyone else would have to start including this in their games.
We’re still in the early days of this, but it’s looking promising. There’s technically already some support for iOS via the Unity plug-in, which has an update coming in the near future to add support for multiplayer functionality. There will also be an SDK for games that aren’t using the Unity plug-in, and we may see both the Unity update and the new SDK as soon as tomorrow, March 18, 2014.
From my personal perspective, this is a major development in gaming. More and more I’m playing games on my phone and tablet, and I have a few close friends who aren’t on the same platform as I am, and it would be a really big deal if there were more games that we could play together. One friend of mine in particular mostly plays games on either his PC or his tablet. It would be awesome if we could play online multiplayer on something. I know there are a few games out there that support this already (we’re totally playing Spaceteam this week) but it would be really nice if there was a larger selection of games that could be played together.
Can’t we all just get along?