Today, Microsoft announced that it’s opening up its Xbox Live gaming service to support “cross-network play” that will let gamers compete with players on “
different online multiplayer networks.”
The popular “Rocket League,” which is like soccer with cars, is the first announced game to support the cross-network functionality.
At launch, it’s only Windows 10 vs. Xbox, but Microsoft says there’s an “open invitation” to other networks. This theoretically means that players on an Xbox One console could one day play against Sony PlayStation gamers on the PlayStation Network service, or PC gamers on Steam.
This assumes developers decide to use the feature in their games and that the other networks accept Microsoft’s invitation.
I hope they do: As our friends at Tech Insider note, it’s always been kind of dumb that Xbox gamers can’t play against PlayStation gamers.
But for Microsoft, it’s a sign of an important strategic shift at the whole company.
In the same way you can use Microsoft Word on an iPhone these days, Microsoft doesn’t really care where or with whom you play. Microsoft’s recent party line is “putting the customer at the center.”
Want to play Xbox games against PlayStation owners? Cool. Want to use SQL Server on Linux? That’s fine, too. The hope, as expressed repeatedly by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, is that customers in all markets will enjoy using Microsoft products and platforms so much that they will choose them, not because they were forced in to them.
Which is to say, Microsoft is just trying to pull out all the stops and make Windows 10 gaming as attractive as possible.
Taking a long-term view, and assuming developers jump aboard, it means that having a Windows 10 computer will mean that you’ll be able to play games with just about everyone, across most devices: PC-to-PC, PC-to-Xbox, PC-to-PlayStation, all from Windows 10.
Windows 10 is the forefront of Microsoft’s philosophy right now, with the Xbox One console slowly but surely getting closer to a Windows PC.
Microsoft hopes that once you’re on Windows 10, you’ll buy more apps from the Windows Store, you’ll subscribe to Office 365, you’ll buy OneDrive storage, you’ll make more Bing searches, and, yes, you’ll like Windows gaming so much you’ll subscribe to the $60/year Xbox Live service.
Taking the lead in making cross-platform play possible is a great signal of how Microsoft is trying to turn openness to competitors into a great lever for its most proftable businesses.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.