Andy Schuette has been gaming ever since he could hold a SNES controller in his hands and has been loving every minute of it. He's the funniest guy he knows, and the least funny guy everyone else knows.
The console war may have a winner with Xbox chief Phil Spencer‘s latest announcement. In a strange turn of events, the victor in the gaming arms race will be the runner who’s up and left the track. Since he took the helm in 2014, Spencer has made it his goal to win back the loyalty of Xbox fans. Unphased by PlayStation’s lead of 14 million units, he knows his numbers will follow. After all, if you’re struggling in your current field, what do you do? Well, you change the field.
With that in mind, Microsoft and Spencer have unveiled the Universal Windows Platform. In layman’s terms, this allows apps to run across UWP devices, such as PCs and Xbox One consoles. While Universal Windows Applications already exist, they’re now getting fitted out for gaming. That’s right: the singularity of PC and console gaming is nigh.
Xbox One and PC: a match made in Heaven?
So now the question remains: what does it all mean for gaming? Foremost, these changes address a plea that has existed as long as the console rift itself: cross-platform play. Until now, the chasm between PCs and consoles seemed unbridgeable. If you wanted to play with your Xbox friends, buy an Xbox. If you have a PS4, you best make friends with the same console.
Of course, the rift has remained for economic reasons. Why allow people to play cross-console when you can make money on two or more copies of the same game? The same reason why good local multiplayer disappeared and downloadable content became a thing. Two words: double dipping.
Since Microsoft owns Xbox One and Windows, they no longer need to compete for market share. With Xbox controllers already able to interface with some PC games, unification seemed inevitable. Now, it’s just a matter of catching up the software to the hardware.
While uniting Xbox One and PC gamers, Spencer wants to make cross-platform gaming an industry standard. At this point, it looks like PlayStation players might get the boot unless Sony plays ball with the UWP. But that isn’t to say they’re not trying.
Cross-platform play between PC and PlayStation 4 has also been an ongoing experiment. Both Rocket League and Street Fighter V have unified online lobbies. In 2013, CCP toyed with EVE Online and Dust 514 back in PlayStation 3’s heyday. But creating an “ecosystem,” as Spencer calls it, for programs to interface across operating systems is the next step.
The End of an Era?
It’d look like that not everything is sunshine on the horizon. While this is exciting news for cross-platform play, some loyal Xbox One owners have already shown their distaste. Their main complaint? Losing exclusivity to certain Xbox One titles.
They believe that the console is being “killed” as there is no more reason to pick that over a PC. If they can get the same games – with higher frame rates and usually cheaper – then why would they buy an Xbox One? All they have are bragging rights to their exclusives, their preferred ammo in the Best Platform debate.
The announcement to unify Xbox One and PC would be the nail in the coffin. But instead of a loss, Xbox owners should see it as a gain. Not only does it broaden the pool of possible opponents, but developing a game for just one platform is half as expensive. PC games are already cheaper on average than their console counterparts. I can only wonder how Microsoft and other game developers can pass on the time and energy saved.
Concerns aside, Xbox made a pretty impressive (and bold) move. Depending on how Sony and Nintendo react, we could see a much more even playing field when choosing gaming platforms. For now, it looks like Spencer and Xbox are taking steps in the right direction.