LOS ANGELES — One of the biggest games in the world is doing something no game has done before: connecting all of its players, regardless of platform. Even more bizarrely, that game is owned by Microsoft — a company with a serious stake in the world of video games with its Xbox platform.
The game we’re talking about is “Minecraft,” of course, the enormously popular survival game that’s on everything from your iPhone to your Xbox One.
Microsoft announced on Sunday that it’s unifying all versions of “Minecraft.” That may sound like no big deal, but it’s actually a huge deal in terms of the big picture: It means the the tens of millions of people playing “Minecraft” on all platforms — a bunch of competing platforms, mind you — will all play together going forward.
It’s a new concept for “Minecraft” as a platform unto itself rather than a distinct game.
The concept is simple: If you’re playing “Minecraft” on any platform, you’re playing with everyone else. It’s the kind of thing that more games could do, but don’t.
There’s a simple reason, of course, that more games don’t work across platforms: Business.
Because Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation are competitors, there are certain functions that remain locked to each platform despite being identical. Online play, for instance — and that means that games like “Minecraft,” which are identical across many platforms, remain balkanized. That actually remains the case with “Minecraft” — PlayStation 4 is the one exception here.
In every other case, however, Microsoft managed to bridge the game across different types of devices from different, competing companies. And that’s really great — the kind of precedent that will hopefully be adopted by more games.
“Minecraft” will be updated to enable cross-platform play at some point “this summer.”