Cross-Platform Is The New Sexy

This article was originally published on my LinkedIn page in November 2020.

It’s the 3rd of the month again, let’s dive into the new article right away. This is a more industrial post again than the usual “how PM works” thing. The thought came to me when Facebook reminded me of the interview I gave to Pocketgamer.biz a year ago.

They’ve asked me about the future trends I see in the industry and because I wanted to be original instead of mentioning subscriptions, hyper-casual, and VR, I’ve told about cross-platform gaming and cross-progression. After a year, I want to expand on cross-platform gaming since it is a real experience changer. In fact, I couldn’t be more accurate with my prediction — cross-platform games are gaining weight and do that fast.

Cross-play games are games that are able to be played online over different gaming systems. From the start of the current generation of gaming platforms, studios tried to achieve the first taste of a multiplatform ecosystem. Final Fantasy 14 and War Thunder were the first two games on PS4 with cross-platform back in 2014, Microsoft pushed Windows and Xbox towards each other for several years, iOS and Android tried to maintain the same rooms for players of one game, Fortnite assembled all the platforms in the same room for the first time… But it was not so large-scale as it is now.

Actually, some big players like Hearthstone or Minecraft were there from the very beginning but corporations like Sony realized the bright future of cross-play and cross-progression just recently. And in a year we’ve seen the Warzone, Hyper Scape, Apex Legends, Among Us, Genshin Impact, Rogue Company, Dauntless, Spellbreak, and dozens of others. And even more of them plan to try it.

Actually, the expansion silently started with apps and services. How many of your devices have a YouTube application? All of them. And Netflix? All of them. And the cross-progression is also here — I can start watching some show on my Huawei phone in the subway, continue on my PS4 while I’m waiting for my friends, ending up on my iPad in the bed. This example also helps to look at cross-platform wider — it can be between PC and consoles, between mobiles and Smart TVs…

So why do I think that cross-platform is so important? I believe that at some point in evolution the different branches of the gaming industry will merge.

I suppose that each platform will always remain independent to some extent: I don’t think that hyper-casual games will go beyond mobile screens or realistic simulators leave PC. But the platforms will more and more intersect in terms of titles, ecosystems, and user base. As you might have noticed, most of my examples are multiplayer games in which the social element plays a huge part. Players can now play with their friends without any concerns regarding the platform (though it still hurts to play PvP shooters on consoles in the same server with PC players). For single-player lovers, the possibility of cross-progression, playing the same franchise on different platforms and in different circumstances will add significant value too.

This is not only because of the cross-platform but also because of the mobile versions of popular titles (Diablo Immortal, EVE Echoes, Stellaris, Dead by Daylight, Call of Duty Mobile — the list goes on and on).

The multiplatform and especially cross-platform experience put the industry together and create a so-called “multiverse” not only in terms of playing with friends on different platforms or taking your beloved title to handheld but also in terms of cross-promotion opportunities. Just take a look at Call of Duty Mobile after a year of its Live-Ops. It is not only an extremely successful experiment for Activision but also a great platform for advertising their Modern Warfare and Black Ops: Cold War titles, and vice versa. I presume that in the closest future some popular titles from big publishers will come to mobile and some mobile games will consider cross-play. Plus, players seem to enjoy the opportunity of playing without boundaries…

But what are the pros and cons of this forecast?

Pros:

- it allows for more versatility and gameplay options;

- it blurs the boundaries between platforms making games more accessible;

- it offers great promotional space to work with;

- it reduces connections latency since the audience is not split between platforms;

- it increases engagement and retention — you have a whole world to play with;

- mobile ports of big franchises can boost revenues…

Cons:

- … while cross-platform PvP experience in premium games can result in drops in sales — you don’t need to own a copy for PC and a copy for Nintendo Switch when you have cross-play (while you still can spend the money you saved on in-app purchases);

- expensive development process;

- some genres could be hard to balance because of the control differences;

- lack of new ideas in games.

In my point of view, the advantages definitely overweight the disadvantages. Yes, it may take us to the world of sequels, remakes, and 20 years of supporting the same multiplayer games — but is that such a bad thing? We still will have original content and single-player games because of new distribution strategies (check out Xbox Game Pass to understand what I mean). But at the same time, we will step into the world where mobile is a respectable platform and all platforms can exist in peace, offering something unique but at the same time supporting cross-play.

And what do you think about it? Do you play any cross-platform games?

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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I am a mobile game producer with experience in project management, business development, game design, and legal aspects of the videogame industry.

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Murad Musakaev

Murad Musakaev

I am a mobile game producer with experience in project management, business development, game design, and legal aspects of the videogame industry.

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