Crossplay vs. Exclusives – Where is the gaming industry heading?

Crossplay vs. Exclusives

Crossplay is an online gaming functionality that allows gamers the ability to play a multiplayer game across two or more different platforms. The feature, when used to its full extent, can support a game between players playing together on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, macOS and Android/iOS devices. However, a large contingent of the gaming industry pushes for more “Exclusives”, a term used for a game made for a particular console. The battle of crossplay vs. exclusives is relevant now more than ever.

The gaming industry is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the hyper-connected world we live in today. As per the report from Newzoo, the industry is expected to earn $159.3 billion in revenue in 2020. The industry is primarily divided into three categories – PC, Console and Mobile. The market further gets subdivided within each category as well and the games can be catalogued based on the operating system or the hardware setup they are developed for.

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Story so far

The idea of crossplay is not entirely new in the gaming industry. It has been tested a number of times since the introduction of internet technology into the gaming systems. The first instance of successful crossplay was in 2002 with Square Enix’s role-playing game Final Fantasy XI. The game, at the time, could be played by gamers from PC, PS2 and Xbox 360 together.

The gaming consoles launched post-2006 boasted of improved internet security measures. And the console makers started launching subscription services for their ever-increasing player base. These services offered the ability to play multiplayer games, but only against players using the same consoles.

The idea of crossplay, when considered against a backdrop of a brewing console war, seemed like a no-brainer. No matter what console you chose, you would still have access to all the gamers playing a certain game. However, the console manufacturers didn’t find enough value in the idea. With the launch of Sony’s Playstation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox One in 2013, the two brands had officially declared for a fight to console supremacy.

Both the PS4 and Xbox One were very similar products in terms of features and specifications. You could not have gone wrong choosing either of the product. Yet, today, when we compare the sales of both the products, we can see that PS4 has sold more than double the number of consoles Xbox One has sold since their launch in 2013. And the only reason for that huge gap is console exclusive games.

Crossplay vs. Exclusives – What is good and what is bad for the gaming industry?

We have to look at this objectively. Each console maker wants you to buy their product and nothing else. Each exclusive game, online service and every other related benefit exists to persuade you into buying a particular product. For example, Sony wants you to think that you need to get Playstation more than any other console. With crossplay, you will most likely buy a console from the brand that is giving out a better offer.

This argument is sufficiently used in the gaming industry to push for console exclusivity over crossplay. However, the game publishers heavily criticise the idea. A publisher wants the game to be available for as many people as possible. They don’t care what console you buy their game for. And as a result fight against exclusivity in order to increase their coverage.

Crossplay over exclusivity is more profitable for game publishers, and less profitable for the console makers while the gamers are neutral.

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The road ahead?

Up until the launch of next-gen consoles, the PS4 had a clear advantage. It became an easy decision for new buyers to choose PS4 since that is where most of the players were. For now, it seems like Sony wants to continue the trend with the Playstation 5 as well. They have launched a major game title as an exclusive along with the new console and announced another upcoming title.

Crossplay definitely looks like a reality for the games that will get a multi-console release. These would mostly be the mainstream titles from major publishers. But sadly, as the war of consoles continues, exclusivity will lead the way.

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