Xbox’s Phil Spencer Suggests Cross-Platform Moderation to Make Games Safer

As we’ve already heard this week, Phil Spencer — the man in charge of all things Xbox — recently took part in an extensive interview with the New York Times. Along with revealing that the Xbox Series consoles are the best selling in the brand’s 20-year history Spencer discussed a number of other ideas and one in particular caught our eye: cross-platform moderation.

There’s little doubt that sometimes gaming can have a bit of an image problem when it comes to user interaction. It’s a trope, but the concept of kids screaming everything-phobic abuse at each other during and between Call of Duty matches (which Microsoft now owns, thanks to a $70bn buyout of Activision Blizzard) has a ring of truth. Just look at the comments in many post-race lobbies in GT Sport

That’s something that can be off-putting to new players, internet-savvy parents letting their kids play online, and particularly women — who face some of the worst abuse. It’s also something that gaming publishers and networks want to stamp out.

According to Spencer, Microsoft has invested in technologies aimed at making online interactions safer. Some of this tech includes an AI that monitors the sentiment of a conversation, looking at when a specific chat reaches a “destructive point”. It can flag a message and warn the users that they need to cool off — and of course there’s manual user reporting functions built in too.

While that’s good for Xbox, Spencer notes that he doesn’t think “gaming wins by one platform being safer and other platforms not being safe”. Conceding that it would be difficult to pull off, he muses whether it be possible to ban offenders across other networks.

As quoted by in the interview, Spencer comments: “Something I would love us to be able to do — this is a hard one as an industry — is when somebody gets banned in one of our networks, is there a way for us to ban them across other networks?”

Even aside from the technical difficulty, such a feature would require the network owners — the likes of which include Sony and Nintendo — to work together. That’s not something that happens all that often, although the increasing number of games with PlayStation and Xbox cross-play shows that, even though it seemed unlikely for quite a while, it can happen.

Of course the technical issues are their own additional level of difficulty. Any such feature would need to identify the same user across other platforms and that’s hard enough when it’s one person on two consoles of the same type.

There’s also plenty of other legal ramifications too. The terms of service for Xbox and PlayStation networks are similar but not identical, and they’d need to be unified or you could face a ban on your chosen platform for something that’s not an offense there. There’s also questions of how would it affect those with lesser offenses or even previous offenses, and how you can be banned from a service you’ve never used or for which you’ve never agreed to the TOS.

One alternative also suggested by Spencer regards a personal block list. It would be ideal, he says, “as a player, for me to be able to bring my banned user list”. He adds that “this is the group of people that I choose not to play with… I don’t want to have to recreate that in every platform that I play video games on.”

It’s an interesting concept, and there’s more than a few hurdles in the way of it happening. Let us know what you think of cross-platform moderation in the comments!

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