At the E3 Xbox Event Minecraft Quietly Steals the Show
While you can make an easy argument that the biggest news coming out of Microsoft’s E3 2017 press conference was the unveiling of the Xbox One X, the news that may have the bigger impact in the future came by way of Minecraft.
Mojang’s sandbox title is the second best-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris. Multiple versions of the game have been released on multiple systems since its debut in 2011, with editions made specifically for PC, consoles, and tablets, each built on different foundations and offering different features. Despite their obvious similarities, they are different animals.
During the press conference where Minecraft 4K was announced, it was also confirmed that the new versions on the way – including those on the Xbox One X, Nintendo Switch, and Windows – will all support cross-platform play.
On the surface, this isn’t a major deal. It’s great that the three platforms will play nice with each other, but it’s a single game. Where this does stand out is what it could mean for games in the future.
For years, gamers have been hoping for cross-platform titles for the biggest games on the market, and for years there has always been a reason for it not to happen. We have seen cross-platform play within the same families – Xbox One and PC, PlayStation 4 and Vita, etc. – but not between competitors. Imagine jumping on your PS4 and playing Call of Duty with friends on the Xbox One. You wouldn’t have to worry about getting the same system as your friend, you could just play.
Part of the reason we haven’t seen this before is financial and part is technological. The reason Minecraft isn’t on the PS4 as well is that Sony reportedly refused. That’s not surprising – Microsoft and Sony have a long rivalry, and it doesn’t really benefit either of them to have most games offer cross-play. Why allow a game like Destiny 2 to be cross-platform when instead Sony can lock down a timed exclusive on the DLC? Minecraft is a different type of game, however. Not only is it popular enough that it can call its own shots, it’s also not in itself a “system seller,” like COD or Destiny, in part due to having been released six years ago and subsequently on several platforms.
The other issue is the tech. Minecraft’s various versions across platforms can all be ported onto a similar foundation without too much trouble – not that it will be easy, but the architecture of the platform is not prohibitive given the style of the gameMadden. If other developers decide to buck the exclusivity deals they tend to cut with different platforms, it is a very real possibility they will follow Minecraft’s lead.
Don’t expect this to happen immediately – or possibly not even within the next few years. But one day we may be able to play across the aisle and leave behind the annoying limitations of online exclusivity.