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The Power of Cross-Platform Play in Live Game Development

hitchhikers guide

The demand for cross-platform gaming is on the rise, with most gamers in the United States already embracing this trend. Roughly 63% of gamers in the United States play games on more than one platform, and 50% of those players have played a game on multiple platforms at the same time, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). Additionally, 59% of gamers surveyed said they would like to see more cross-platform games in the future.

First, we learned about the pros and cons of creating a live game. Now let’s focus on a new topic in the live game development process. In this chapter of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Launching Live Service Games, we take a look at the significance of releasing your game cross-platform, whether it is the right move for your live game, and the benefits it brings to players.

What is Cross-Platform?

Cross-platform play has become increasingly significant, revolutionizing the way players engage with their favorite games. Defined as the ability for gamers to play with and against each other across different platforms seamlessly, cross-platform play has sparked a new era of accessibility and community within the gaming industry. Whether you and your friends are Xbox, PlayStation, or PC gamers, you can all still play together as long as the game you’re playing supports cross-platform play. 

However, it's not just about playing together; it's also about progressing together. With the advent of cross-platform progression, players can now carry their in-game accomplishments, rewards, and progress across multiple platforms, creating a truly unified gaming experience. 

Advantages of Cross-Platform Play in Live Game Development

Cross-platform play in live game development offers a multitude of advantages. Below are some of the upsides to offering cross-platform play.

Improved Accessibility

Friends want to play with each other. Cross-platform play greatly improves accessibility by allowing players to connect and play with friends and fellow gamers regardless of the platform they choose. This enables a more seamless and integrated social experience, where players can engage in cooperative or competitive gameplay regardless of the devices they own. The shared experience across platforms promotes stronger social bonds and fosters player-driven experiences, creating a sense of unity and camaraderie within the gaming community.

Larger Player Base

One of the primary advantages of cross-platform play is the ability to bring together players from different platforms, thereby significantly expanding the player pool. Developers can foster a more inclusive and vibrant gaming community by breaking down the barriers between platforms. Additionally, the expanded player base increases the pool of potential opponents, reducing matchmaking wait times and improving overall player retention. This enhances social interactions and ensures that players can easily find matches and engage with a larger pool of opponents and allies, ultimately enriching their gaming experience. 

Cross-platform gaming results in more diverse communities by bringing in players from different platforms. This diversity enhances matchmaking algorithms, ensuring that players are matched with opponents of similar skill levels, resulting in more balanced and engaging gameplay experiences. 

Increased Longevity

Cross-platform play can significantly contribute to the longevity of a live game by fostering competitive environments and esports scenes. Developers can create unified and robust competitive ecosystems by enabling players from different platforms to compete against each other. This not only extends the lifespan of the game but also attracts a wider audience and enhances the competitive experience for both players and spectators. The inclusivity provided by cross-platform play has the potential to elevate the game's esports presence and solidify its position in the competitive gaming landscape.

Increased Revenue

Cross-platform play opens up new avenues for revenue generation. With a larger player base and more diverse communities, developers can tap into various monetization strategies, such as in-game cosmetics, expansions, or season passes. Additionally, cross-platform play can attract a wider audience, increasing the game's potential for in-game purchases and microtransactions. The increased revenue potential makes cross-platform play an attractive feature for developers seeking to maximize their game's financial success.

Builds a Sustainable and Inclusive Community

Cross-platform play plays a vital role in fostering a sustainable and inclusive gaming community. Developers can create a diverse and inclusive player base by enabling players from different platforms to connect and play together. This inclusivity promotes social interactions and cooperative gameplay across platforms, breaking down barriers and facilitating a sense of unity among players. Moreover, cross-platform play opens doors for player-driven content creation and sharing, empowering the community to contribute and collaborate across platforms. By leveraging the power of cross-platform play, developers can cultivate a sustainable and inclusive gaming community that thrives on diversity, collaboration, and a shared passion for the game.

Disadvantages and Challenges of Cross-Platform Play

Though cross-platform play offers several advantages, it also poses potential challenges that should be addressed. 

Technical Limitations

One of the primary challenges in cross-platform play lies in ensuring compatibility and optimizing the game's performance across different platforms. Each platform may have its own hardware specifications, operating systems, and networking capabilities, which can pose technical hurdles for developers. Ensuring a seamless and consistent gameplay experience across platforms requires additional effort and resources to overcome these technical limitations.

Navigating Various Platforms Requirements

Implementing cross-platform play comes with the challenge of navigating the diverse requirements imposed by different platforms, leading to increased complexity, operational considerations, and development costs. Adapting the game to multiple platforms requires additional resources and specialized knowledge, with platform-specific optimizations often necessary. The certification process for publishing games on different platforms can be time-consuming, and ensuring a seamless user interface across platforms is crucial to avoiding user frustration and customer service tickets. Despite these challenges, developers who successfully address platform requirements can provide a smooth and enjoyable gaming experience for players across various platforms.

Unbalanced Playing Field

Cross-platform play often involves players using different input methods, such as keyboard and mouse, controllers, or touchscreens. These variations in input methods can lead to imbalances in gameplay and create challenges for achieving fair competition. For example, many may argue that aiming with a mouse is significantly easier than aiming with a controller. Developers must carefully consider these differences and implement appropriate control schemes and balancing mechanisms to maintain an equitable experience for all players, regardless of their chosen platform.

Security and Cheating Concerns

On the topic of unfairness, the open nature of cross-platform play introduces security vulnerabilities and cheating concerns. With multiple platforms involved, developers must ensure robust security measures to protect player data, prevent hacking, and detect cheating behaviors. Maintaining a fair and secure gameplay environment across platforms requires continuous monitoring, updates, and cooperation with platform holders to mitigate these risks effectively.

Community Fragmentation

While cross-platform play offers the advantage of expanding the player base, it can also lead to community fragmentation. Players may prefer to interact primarily with others on their own platform, creating distinct communities that might not fully interact with players on other platforms. This fragmentation can impact matchmaking times, community events, and the overall sense of a unified gaming community, requiring additional efforts to bridge these gaps and encourage cross-platform interaction.

Difficulties Ensuring Seamless Login Experience

One of the key challenges of implementing cross-platform play is ensuring a seamless login experience with a cross-platform user identifier. Typically, users are required to log in using specific platform credentials, such as PSN, Xbox Live, or Apple accounts. However, without a robust cross-platform user identifier or account linking solution, maintaining consistent account information and progression across different platforms becomes exceedingly difficult. It is crucial to establish a system that allows users to seamlessly access their accounts and retain their progress, regardless of the platform they choose to play on. This challenge demands careful consideration and implementation to provide a smooth and unified experience for players engaging in cross-platform gameplay.

Overcoming Challenges and Pitfalls: Considerations for Implementation

When implementing cross-platform play in live game development, developers must carefully consider various aspects to ensure a smooth and successful integration. Technical considerations involve prioritizing compatibility and optimization across platforms, while legal and contractual considerations require open communication and negotiation with platform holders. Monetization strategies should aim for consistency and fairness, and user experience considerations call for designing intuitive control schemes and addressing input variations. Effective community management strategies can also bridge gaps and foster unity among players on different platforms.

Technical Considerations

To overcome technical challenges, developers should prioritize compatibility and optimization across different platforms. This involves thorough testing and optimization processes to ensure a seamless gameplay experience, regardless of the platform. Implementing scalable solutions, utilizing cross-platform development frameworks, and collaborating closely with platform holders can help address technical limitations and ensure smooth cross-platform play.

Legal and Contractual Considerations

When navigating legal and contractual challenges, developers should engage in open communication with platform holders and seek to negotiate agreements that enable cross-platform play. Understanding and complying with each platform's licensing requirements and restrictions is crucial. Consulting legal professionals well-versed in the gaming industry can provide guidance and help developers navigate the intricacies of licensing agreements, ensuring compliance and a smooth implementation process.

Monetization Strategies

Developers should consider how cross-platform play impacts their monetization strategies. Offering consistent and fair opportunities for in-game purchases, expansions, or season passes across platforms can help maintain a level playing field. Implementing cross-platform account systems that synchronize purchases and progress ensures a seamless experience for players, regardless of the platform they use. By considering the unique monetization opportunities presented by cross-platform play, developers can maximize revenue while providing players with a fair and enjoyable experience.

User Experience Considerations

To provide a consistent and enjoyable user experience, developers must carefully balance gameplay mechanics and account for different input methods across platforms. Designing control schemes that are intuitive and optimized for each platform's input devices is essential. Additionally, implementing systems that mitigate imbalances caused by input variations, such as aim-assist or separate matchmaking queues for different input methods, can help ensure fairness and an optimal user experience.

Community Management Strategies

Community management is crucial in overcoming community fragmentation. Developers can employ strategies to encourage cross-platform interaction, such as implementing cross-platform voice chat, cross-platform leaderboards, and cross-platform events. Facilitating communication and collaboration among players on different platforms helps foster a sense of unity and inclusivity. Creating shared experiences and recognizing achievements that transcend platforms can contribute to building a strong and interconnected gaming community.

To Cross-Platform, or not to Cross-Platform?

Cross-platform play in live game development brings a plethora of benefits and challenges. On the one hand, it expands the player base, improves accessibility, fosters diverse communities, increases longevity, and unlocks new revenue streams. But on the other hand, it poses technical, legal, and community-related challenges. Despite these challenges, developers are encouraged to embrace cross-platform play as a key aspect of their live games. The positive impact it has on player experiences, community growth, and the overall success of live games is undeniable. By implementing cross-platform play, developers can create immersive and inclusive experiences that resonate with players across different platforms. Get in touch with a member of the Accelbyte team to request a demo and learn more about our robust and scalable live game development tools and services. 

If you're still new to the live game development journey, be sure to follow The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Launching Live Service Games to understand the complete game development process.

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