File this in the “Didn’t See That Coming in 2019” folder alongside the Mad Box. According to a Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2019 session description, Microsoft is looking to spread its entire Xbox Live ecosystem across a variety of platforms.
Xbox Live is one of the largest, most engaged gaming communities on the planet with decades of experience providing managed game services to developers that save you time and unlock all of the social and engagement features that players love.
Now Xbox Live is about to get MUCH bigger. Xbox Live is expanding from 400M gaming devices and a reach to over 68M active players to over 2B devices with the release of our new cross-platform XDK.
Get a first look at the SDK to enable game developers to connect players between iOS, Android, and Switch in addition to Xbox and any game in the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs.
- Xbox Live players are highly engaged and active on Xbox and PC, but now they can take their gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen.
- This will break down barriers for developers that want their communities to mingle more freely across platforms. Combined with PlayFab gaming services, this means less work for game developers and more time to focus on making games fun.
This isn’t entirely unprecedented: all Minecraft players currently require a Microsoft log-in, with exception to those on PlayStation. But this is a much larger step for Xbox Live. Cross-platform support could include Xbox Live achievements, social features, and even multiplayer, allowing players to carry more of their gaming profile with them.
The move would increase XBL’s potential userbase from 400 million devices to over 2 billion. Notably, PlayStation is absent in the description. Whether this is Microsoft’s choice — seeing Sony as its most direct competitor in the console space — or the Japanese giant’s reluctance to fully embrace the industry’s move to multi-platform is unclear. If it’s the latter, it may not last for long, as Sony has recently shown off a more open-walled approach to Rocket League.
On the face of it, this sounds like a very strange move for Microsoft, as the robust Xbox Live service is arguably one of the brand’s big USPs. But on the flip side, that’s precisely the appeal: as every industry moves towards service-based subscriptions, this is a big company leveraging its strength across as many outlets as possible. If XBL became the de facto network combining all the disparate platforms into one ecosystem — admittedly, a big if — Microsoft would have access to mountains of player data to better understand how people interact with games.
It’s the latest pro-consumer move by the Redmond-based tech company, following behind things like Xbox Game Pass and the Adaptive Controller. Whether it finds success is another matter entirely, but we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on it as it develops.