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How important is cross-play for fighting titles on the next generation of gaming platforms?

Will this new level of connection be a staple for new consoles?

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • January 1, 2019 at 1:09 p.m. PST • Comments: 62

I have a PlayStation 4 because when Street Fighter 5 was revealed in 2015 we found that Sony's would be the only gaming console that would support it. That's probably the story for a healthy handful of the SF5 crowd.

While the game does offer cross platform play over to PC, Xbox One users are totally out of luck should they want to throw down with the latest Street Fighter roster.

The 2013 entry of Killer Instinct is regarded by many in the fighting game community as one of the most enjoyable modern fighters that not enough people gave a chance to. A title that saw an exceptional level of developer attention to detail, a free to play model that was inviting to any and all newcomers and a wide variety of original and guest characters didn't get a chance? Why?

The first and most common answer you'll hear is that Killer Instinct was an Xbox One exclusive, and hey, most of us had to choose one console or the other... and many went with Street Fighter. How many stories that leave us with that irking question of possible unfulfilled potential float about because of the lack of cross platform play? How long will we keep writing them?

Whether it be Nintendo, Sega, Sony or Microsoft, gamers have become accustomed to having to choose a console as part of their gaming identity for the next five to eight years. Even titles available across multiple platforms have not, (until recent exceptions) seen online multiplayer over the same servers.

Upon the release of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, South Park devoted three full episodes of its 23rd season to the division caused by lack of cross console play (shout outs to the Red Robin Wedding).

Though we're still not very far along in terms of official announcements, the gaming community is clearly hearing that still, small voice that all but knows we're standing incredibly close to the next generation of PlayStations and Xboxes. Such a benchmark on the console timeline seems the perfect place to finally bridge the gap, but will it actually come to fruition? Product Owner of the upcoming Generation Zero, Paul Keslin, was optimistic in a recent chat with Gaming Bolt.

"New technology is always exciting to work with, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds in store, both for players and developers," Kesler told GB when prompted about next gen consoles.

When specifically asked about the concept of cross-platform compatibility, Kesler responded with the optimistic, if somewhat safe, "With the recent trends we’ve seen, we would not exclude it."

Here's a take from Maximilian from as far as two and a half years ago:

Said trends include the practices of Rocket League, which allows for some cross-platform play between PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo's Switch.

We say "some" because not all platforms are friendly with all others. PC players are able to connect with anyone else, but PS4 users, for instance, cannot play with Xbox or Switch users.

The biggest title that's adopted the practice is also the biggest title in the gaming world right now, Epic Games' Fortnite. Not only does Fortnite allow everyone to party at once, they even extended connections out to Mac and mobile users.

Bringing this all back to fighting games, it would certainly be erroneous to simply state we need to "flip the cross-play switch to 'on' and move forward." The nuances that fighting gamers care about seem to be a bit more strictly adhered to than in other genres.

No one likes lag, for instance, but a blip of latency in a MOBA or a Battle Royale is often much less noticeable and less outcome-affecting than in the constant action and frame-counting atmosphere of fighting titles.

The regulation between the platforms would need to be a bit more finely tuned than it is right now, as Street Fighter players have never been quiet about the fact that Sony consoles often includes at least one extra frame of delay than competitors'.

Also, as Max pointed out, fighting game communities are relatively small compared to the other titans of eSports at the moment. If we're all further dispersed because of console barriers, it doesn't bode well for the continued growth of the scene.

It may not be the easiest box to check, but here in 2019's hugely expanded universe of gaming, we've come to see cross-play as all but a necessity.

We know we want it, we know it's possible but do you think Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and the like are ready to make cross-play a staple of the next generation of consoles? Please chime in with your two cents in the comments.

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