In video games, cross-platform play, or cross-play, is a term used to describe the ability of a video game with an online gaming component that allows players using different video game hardware to play with each other simultaneously. It is commonly applied to the ability for players using a game on a specific video game console to play alongside a player on a different hardware platform such as another console or a computer.
The term is related to but distinct from the notion of cross-platform development, which use software languages and tools to enable deployment of software on multiple platforms. Cross-platform play is also a distinct concept from the ability to allow a player to play a game on different hardware platforms, often only having to purchase the title for one single system to have access to it on other systems, and retaining their progress in the game through the use of cloud storage or similar techniques.
Cross-platform play, while technically feasible with today’s computer hardware, generally is impeded by two factors. One factor is the difference in control schemes between personal computers and consoles, with the keyboard-and-mouse controls typically giving computer players an unfair advantage that cannot be easily remedied. The second factor relates to the closed online services used on consoles that are designed to provide a safe and consistent environment for its players that require the businesses’ cooperation to open up for cross-platform play. At present, within the eighth generation of consoles, cross-platform play can be frequently found between Microsoft‘s Xbox One and Microsoft Windows or other personal computers, and separately between PlayStation 4 and computers. Microsoft has reached out to suggest further cross-platform play with other platforms, including Sony‘s PlayStation, the Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.