Microsoft plans to expand Xbox Live to other platforms, including Nintendo Switch and mobile. The company says bringing the network to more consoles will “enable game developers to connect players between iOS, Android, and Switch in addition to Xbox and any game in the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs.”
The move was teased in the description for an upcoming session at GDC, where the plans will presumably be revealed in more detail. The session, titled Xbox Live: Growing & Engaging Your Gaming Community Across iOS, Android, Switch, Xbox, and PC (Presented by Microsoft), will include details on the expansion, which Microsoft says will take Xbox Live to “over 2 billion devices with the release of our new cross-platform Xbox development kit.”
The description continues: “Xbox Live players are highly engaged and active on Xbox and PC, but now they can take their gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen.” Further details are scant at present, but we’ll learn more during GDC, which takes place from March 18-22.
While this news doesn’t necessarily concern cross-play directly, Microsoft has been talking for years now about connecting rival platforms, like PS4 and Xbox One. Xbox boss Phil Spencer previously explained that success to Microsoft involves more than just sales of Xbox One. In fact, GameSpot’s discussion with him back in late 2017 is quite telling and makes this Xbox Live news sound like something it’s been contemplating for years.
“I think about how successful Xbox has been, and what I think about is how many people are in engaged with something to do with Xbox, playing our games, watching things on Mixer, on Xbox Live, on our console,” Spencer said. “But I look at those in aggregate, and so it’s not actually about how many Xbox One Xs do I go sell, or how any Ss do I sell, or even how many of one individual game that I go sell. I look at, are we growing the number of people who have a relationship with Xbox in some way? [It] could be an Android customer in China playing Minecraft, but that’s a person who’s connected to our platform who’s able to use Mixer, who’s able to connect to Xbox Live, meet their friends online. That’s really the metric for growth right now.
“I think if you get so focused just on hardware sales at this point, as gamers, we lose sight of what’s going on around the console business. Console’s important. I love the console space, but it’s part of the gaming business, it’s not total. So I just don’t define success by any one individual version of our console and how many we sell. Are we growing the business? Are we growing the number of customers?”
Taking Xbox Live to other consoles seems like the natural next step after the cross-platform play that exists within certain games, such as Fortnite or Minecraft. Sony has been less cooperative when it comes to cross-platform play and allowing other services on to its PlayStation Network, and it appears this Xbox Live expansion will not apply to PS4 as yet. However, Sony did enable Fortnite cross-play as a beta late last year, so perhaps further integration of the major gaming platforms will become a possibility down the line.