Video game cross-play is here, but not without a few hiccups

If you asked me 10 years ago if I would be able to play games on an Xbox with people on a PlayStation, I would have scoffed. Now, quite a few games support cross-platform play. I could play Minecraft on my phone with someone on a PC for example. Call of Duty, one of the most popular video game franchises in the world, implemented cross-platform play across PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare this year. The scope of compatibility varies depending on the game and is limited to a select few, but in general, the ability for friends to play together regardless of platform is here.

However, the ability to talk with people across platforms is still somewhat lacking. Most multiplayer video games typically have a built-in system called Voice over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, that allows players to talk to one another. VOIP also works with players across different platforms in games that have cross-platform play. My recent experience attempting to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on PC with a friend on PlayStation 4 drew my attention to a few issues.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare image courtesy of IGDB.com.

We were able to figure out how to mute all other players so that we could talk in private, but the connection had problems when we were loading into a match. We were unable to hear what each other was saying during the loading screen between matches. This interruption forced us to carefully time what we were saying in order to not get cut off. It’s a sudden roadblock when you’re having fun chatting with a friend and you have to sit on your witty joke for a good 20 seconds.

Even when we were in a match, we noticed that sometimes our mics would sometimes break up in the middle of a sentence. We then had to constantly ask the other to repeat what they had said and it got old fast. There are no communication applications like Discord or Skype available to download on the PlayStation store either.

A potential work-around would be for my friend on the PlayStation 4 to use one of those apps on his phone and connect to me using the app on PC. However, he would not be able to hear the game audio if he used a headset with his phone. His voice quality would sound like he was across the room and he wouldn’t be able to hear me very well if he put the phone beside him.

Beside the chat issues, it also takes an effort to add friends from a different platform to your friends list. Each game is different, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Rocket League require players to find a seperate player ID and add their friends using that. Frustratingly, the ID is usually hidden within several layers of menus. Once you find it, it’s just a case of adding friends to a list like you would in any other instance by entering their ID and having the other person accept the request.

Rocket League screenshot courtesy of IGDB.com.

Cross-play isn’t all bad though. Being able to play across PC and console means being able to filter out matches based on whether you want to use a keyboard and mouse or controller. This option is more of a necessity for console players playing with a controller, but can be useful if you want to play with a controller on PC too.

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By far the longest lasting repercussion of adding cross-platform play is the extended life-span a game will have. As a game gets older, more and more people will stop playing it as they lose interest or move on to newer titles. Without the total player base being split between platforms, people will be able to find matches for longer than they would have otherwise.

It’s still in the early days, but cross-platform play for every game is in sight. I can’t wait for the day that not being able to play with friends regardless of which system you own will seem antiquated. Let’s just hope chat functionality improves along the way too. A list of all games that support cross-platform play is available on crossplaygames.com.

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