The release last month of the Better Together update for Minecraft brought together Minecraft players on most of the game’s many platforms: the Xbox One, Windows 10, mobile, and VR versions of the game now all use the same engine and can all play together without borders. Servers and content will be accessible from any Better Together platform. Microsoft has also announced that this version of the game will be coming to the Nintendo Switch, and it, too, will be able to join in the cross-platform play.
But one major platform is being left behind: PlayStation 4. Minecraft players on the PlayStation 4 will only be able to play with other PlayStation 4 users. Not because of any technical constraint, but because Sony won’t allow it.
Speaking to Gamespot, Xbox chief Phil Spencer said Sony regards platform lock-in as a way of driving sales and “that reason [for blocking cross-platform play] is not going away.” Spencer doesn’t hold out much hope for things changing, either: “I’m never going to call anything a lost cause, but I think some of the fundamental reasons and certain scenarios—they’re not really going away.”
In June, Sony execs insisted that the company has no “profound philosophical stance” against cross-platform play, and it has permitted play between the PC and PlayStation 4. But cross-console play is clearly a sticking point. While Microsoft isn’t the first developer to cite Sony’s refusal to allow cross-platform play—Rocket League developer Psyonix and Gwent developer CD Projekt have both blamed Sony for the limitation—this is the first time the company has itself fallen foul of Sony’s restrictions. Moreover, Spencer’s comments make clear that Sony’s desire to create lock-in appears to be its overwhelming concern.
If one game could make Sony reconsider, the sheer size and popularity of Minecraft means that it’s surely the one. Better Together is a substantial update, and one can well imagine that it won’t be long before Minecraft players start to expect—and even demand—the ability to play on the same servers regardless of whether they’re using their consoles, their phones, or even their PCs. For now, however, Sony appears content to deny the users of its platform access to the larger Minecraft universe.
Xbox’s big boss Phil Spencer isn’t feeling particularly positive about cross-platform gaming with the PlayStation 4, as Sony doesn’t seem to be getting keen on the idea.
Microsoft has been working on expanding cross-platform play to both Sony and Nintendo, notably for Minecraft, but Spencer, in an interview with GameSpot, noted that only the latter has been keen to play nice with Redmond’s Xbox.
“The relationship with Nintendo on this front has been strong. They’ve been great supporters and we continue to collaborate with them,” he said.
But Spencer in’t so convinced that Sony is up for the cross-platform gaming, despite Microsoft’s dialogue with its gaming rival.
“We talk to Sony all the time. With Minecraft on PlayStation, we have to be one of the biggest games on their platform in terms of sales and gameplay,” he said. “But I think Sony’s view is different. They should talk about what their view is…”
Sony has previously said it didn’t want to go in for cross-platform gaming with Minecraft because it would need to relinquish some control over how it looks after is online gamer base. Moreover, in a cross-platform environment it couldn’t manage any problems that crop up, such as bullying between gamers, and exposing young children who play Minecraft to some of the toxic attitudes and behaviours of older gamers.
While Spencer is not exactly hopeful that Sony will change its stance, he was clear to point out to the GameSpot interviewer that he can’t talk on Sony’s behalf and that some day PlayStation gamers may be able to play online with Xbox One users. And he’s a big advocate of cross-platform gaming in general, which would lead us to suspect we’ll see more Xbox Live and Windows 10 PC cross-play games before to long.
“I think people look at [cross-play] and say is it better for gamers. If it’s better for gamers, I have a hard time thinking why we shouldn’t go do this, especially when you’re trying to make the gaming business a bigger business; grow it, get more games, create more opportunity,” explained Spencer.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, with 10 million copies sold so far, is one of the biggest video game releases of the year. The fact that Microsoft managed to score publishing rights for the console release on the Xbox One is a big coup. So how does the PC game translate for consoles? I recently got a chance to play PUBG with an Xbox One controller against PC players. While I didn’t get any Chicken Dinners, I have some thoughts about the new control scheme and what it might mean for cross-platform play.
Just to be clear, Microsoft didn’t confirm cross-platform for PUBG, but given Microsoft’s hard push for the feature, Brendan Green’s enthusiasm for it, and the fact that keyboard and mouse controls are heavily rumored for the Xbox One, I think it’s worth investigating.
Even if cross-platform functionality never comes out, PUBG is one of the most popular PC games currently available and soon console-only players will get a chance to experience the carnage. And that’s primarily who this preview is for. Since Xbox One controller support has only been available for the PC version of the game for about a month, you might be a console player who’s been hearing about PUBG for months but haven’t played it. So if you’re looking forward to playing it with a controller this preview is for you.
Likewise, during my playtime with PUBG at an Xbox One X preview event I was told that I was playing against PC players so maybe you’re interested in reading about what a potential match might look like between a mouse-and-keyboard player and a controller user?
The answer isn’t as dramatic as you might think.
So, PUBG on an Xbox One controller how did it feel? It felt like how a third-person shooter might feel on a controller but with the exception of maybe having just barely enough buttons for all the possible actions.
Running and firing controls were all par for the course with the left and right triggers pulling up aim and fire respectively, and character movement and camera movement dictated by the two control sticks. The D-Pad let me cycle through the various weapons and items I picked up, while the option button brought up a map.The left bumper let me switch to first person mode and the right bumper let me cycle through the camera perspective. Oh and of course there were the lettered buttons of which Y let me reload, B let me crouch, A let me jump, and X let me interact with weapons and items. That also doesn’t mention that clicking the control sticks let me lean and sprint.
It’s a pretty standard control scheme, but PUBG is a game that requires a lot of input and it took a while to memorize the Xbox One controller’s setup. Some mishaps happened along the way of course like in the initial stages of the game where players are aboard a large carrier airplane and must choose when to parachute out onto the murder island. On the plane, I pulled up my map to flag a suitable location to jump to, however no matter which buttons I pressed, none of them seemed to let me set a waypoint on my map. Then I accidentally pressed the X button and out I went without a location to go to.
I’m not saying the controllers are confusing, but it did feel a little cluttered at times. I’m sure when I spend more time with it, the inputs will become like second nature. But I did find myself fumbling with my weapons at key moments of my first game, and when split second decisions determine life-or-death, chicken dinners or hunger, there’s no room for mistakes. Especially mistakes like accidentally cycling to a pistol when you wanted the smg and getting shot dead while flipping through weapons. I placed 63rd that round.
The next game was a lot faster but that’s because I made the mistake of jumping into a car. I again accidentally pressed the wrong button but this time while driving at high speeds, jumping out and injuring myself. A nearby player picked me off and I placed 82nd that time.
PUBG is a high-stakes, relatively fast game. 100 players jump from a plane and land on a massive island level. Armed with nothing at first, players must scavenge the island looking for weapons and armor, while trying to fend off attacks from any potential enemies. Then there’s the blue circle which starts shrinking, killing any unfortunate soul that spends too long outside of its boundaries. The circle will continue to shrink and players will continue to die until you’re the last one standing. Pretty simple right?
The beauty of PUBG lies in the fact that victory is determined by two factors: luck and skill. While controllers won’t determine the former factor, the latter can be affected by what you use to play, or at least it could. During my time at the preview event I happened to watch one incredibly tall San Francisco-based games journalist make it to rank 2 before getting cornered and killed in the game’s final stretches. So really, you can win using a controller though I personally never got far enough to see if it all came down to mouse and keyboard vs. gamepad that determined who would ultimately win a chicken dinner.
Still, I don’t think it would be the end of the world if Microsoft and Blue Hole decided to let Xbox One PUBG players and PC players fight it out against one another, especially in a game as determined by luck as much as it is skill. While it’s probably fair to say that at towards the end game the great equalizer is skill, the Xbox One controller won’t necessarily determine the victor. Especially if Blue Hole is looking into ways that might overcome the differences between mouse-and-keyboard and gamepad controls like they say they are.
As one of the hottest games of the year, and the Xbox’s big exclusive (rumors are that it will be timed or in a limited capacity), PUBG might be the perfect petri dish to test competitive cross-platform play. Personally, I think it’s a functionality worth pursuing for the both of them.
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Minecraft’s Better Together update, which brings cross-platform play to the game for the first time, is now available on numerous devices — although players outside the Microsoft, Apple and Google ecosystems will have to wait.
Microsoft and developer Mojang released the Better Together update today on mobile devices, virtual reality headsets, Windows 10 and Xbox One. On those platforms, where the game runs on Mojang’s Bedrock Engine, it is now known simply as Minecraft — no colon, no “Pocket Edition” or anything.
“Our general rule of thumb is that if a version can play together with the others, it’s called Minecraft,” Mojang said in an FAQ for the Better Together update. Versions of Minecraft that do not support cross-platform play, such as its original Java-based Mac/PC release and its Wii U version, will retain their “Edition” subtitles.
For now, that will continue to apply to Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition. The Better Together update is coming to Switch, but it’s not ready yet. Mojang is “hoping to be ready to release Minecraft on Switch sometime this winter,” according to a Microsoft spokesperson. There are currently no plans to bring the Better Together update to the New Nintendo 3DS version of Minecraft, which debuted last week.
“We’re working really hard with our partners at Nintendo to accomplish cross-device connectivity that is yet unprecedented in the history of gaming,” Mojang said of the Switch version in the FAQ. “This is very exciting work, but introduces lots of complexities to the development process.”
Sony is the lone holdout when it comes to cross-platform play on consoles in Minecraft. It didn’t seem likely coming out of E3 2017, with Xbox head Phil Spencer taking umbrage at a Sony executive’s suggestion that Microsoft might not be able to ensure the safety of young Minecraft players. But Matt Booty, corporate vice president at Microsoft Studios, said in a recent interview with Mashable that the two companies are working on a solution.
“Sony is a good partner and they are working with us on this,” Booty told Mashable. “We would probably like it to happen a little bit sooner, but I feel positive about being able to make this work.”
In addition to introducing cross-platform play, the Better Together update makes Minecraft Marketplace purchases available on consoles for the first time. (This content was exclusive to the game’s Pocket Edition and Windows 10 Edition until now.) Any items purchased on one platform will be accessible on others — the content is tied to your Xbox Live account. As for the previously announced support for 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) color, that feature will arrive later this fall, presumably around the Nov. 7 launch of the Xbox One X.
The Better Together update is downloadable now for people who own a digital copy of Minecraft. However, people who bought the Xbox One version on disc will need to have played at least five hours of the game in the past 12 months, or must have purchased an add-on for it, in order to get the update. (“The five-hour requirement is designed to help us separate real accounts from fake ones,” said Mojang.) If you have a physical copy of Minecraft: Xbox One Edition but don’t meet either of those requirements, you have until Jan. 30, 2018, to change that.
Minecraft has been available on tons of different devices in the past. Now, Microsoft is finally bringing all those platforms together with the “Better Together” update, which is rolling out today for Xbox One, mobile devices, and Windows 10 PCs. The Nintendo Switch is still set to get the Better Together update, too, although that’s been delayed until later in the winter.
The update essentially takes the different versions of Minecraft that have been available on PC, Xbox, iOS, and Android, and consolidates them into one master version, with the same features, functionality, and content no matter where you play. That means that the console versions of Minecraft on Xbox One (and eventually, the Nintendo Switch) will now run the same version of Minecraft as PCs, mobile, and VR, built on what Microsoft calls the Bedrock Engine.
But the biggest advantage to creating a single version of Minecraft across all these platforms is that cross-play will be possible between Minecraft games. This means that you’ll be able to play Minecraft on your PC with a friend playing on an Xbox, while your buddy joins in from their Android phone. Microsoft is calling this the first time a game has offered cross-play across all these platforms, and with the addition of the Nintendo Switch to the mix, Minecraft could be one of the first true platform-agnostic titles, which is an incredible thing.
You may notice that the PlayStation 4 is glaringly absent from that list. That’s because Sony has — once again — decided to sit out on cross-platform play, an unfortunately familiar refrain from the company this console generation. Similar issues have come up with Rocket League, and most recently Fortnight, which accidentally enabled Xbox One and PlayStation 4 cross-play before pulling the feature. Sony has offered numerous explanations for avoiding cross-play in the past, including citing concerns of protecting children online, but given that the console still has a considerable competitive lead when it comes to users and sales, it’s unlikely that it will be budging on that issue anytime soon.
In an interview with Engadget, Microsoft Studios CVP Matt Booty commented, “We just flat-out couldn’t get those two completely in sync,” in regard to getting Minecraft cross-play with the PlayStation 4. Although, he noted that Microsoft is continuing to talk with Sony on the issue.
Also missing are the Mac and Linux versions of Minecraft, which will continue to exist alongside the original PC version as the renamed Java Edition for now. It’s supposed to continue to receive updates and get them along a similar time frame as the Bedrock Engine version.
That said, the unified Bedrock Engine version will be the canonical Minecraft title moving forward, with the original PC title and older console-specific versions getting appended “Edition” names like Minecraft: Wii U Edition and Minecraft: Java Edition to tell them apart from the core Minecraft title.
And they said it couldn’t be done. Actually, maybe it’s more of a case of wouldn’t be done. Regardless, players of Epic Games’ cooperative survival game, Fortnite, are reporting that cross-platform play between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has been switched on.
Taking to Reddit, Fortnite players have posted screenshots of their gameplay which appear to show Xbox gamertags appearing in matches being played on PlayStation 4 consoles.
Redditor PRE_-CISION-_ was the first to post an image of an Xbox gamertag appearing in his game and naturally the entire community started digging into the matter. It appears that the player was indeed an Xbox user and that they were playing on an Xbox console, not a PC, meaning it really does appear cross-platform play was happening.
A quiet change
Shortly after, more images appeared on the page with one father and son duo even posting an image of them playing side by side on Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
Considering the current stance on cross-platform play between Xbox and PlayStation is that it’s absolutely not happening, this is a surprising development.
This isn’t because such a feature would be impossible to implement, but rather because Sony appears to have no interest in it. Only recently Rocket League cross-platform play was switched on between Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch while Sony’s PlayStation remained notably absent from the lineup.
Microsoft did, however, say only a month ago that it’s currently in talks with Sony over the feature.
Despite Sony’s resistance, developers have said that cross-platform play between Xbox and PlayStation would be relatively easy to make happen. Ark Survival’s developers have told Eurogamer that they’d be able to get the feature up and running in no more than “a few days.”
“I guess there’s a bit of Game of Thrones going on in the way that console makers deal with each other” Sweeney told us, “but ultimately there’s huge value in enabling gamers to connect with all of their friends.”
“In any circle of friends there’s going to be PlayStation, Xbox and PC users and all of these platforms would benefit greatly from being open and enabling all of these different gamers to play with their friends,” he said, “I’d love to see some diplomacy. Nations have diplomacy, so maybe console makers could have diplomacy too.
“They’ll find that even though they’re competing on the hardware front there are actually areas of mutual benefit that we should all work together to break down those barriers, for openness and cross play between all platforms. I think all multiplayer games would be better for cross play.”
Considering Epic’s CEO is such a firm believer in the benefits cross-platform play would bring to multiplayer titles it’d be apt that his company’s game was first to test the feature out.
We’ve reached out to Epic Games to ask for comment on these reports and whether or not the feature is deliberate and will update here with any official response.
So far, no games currently support cross-platform play between all three consoles.
Rocket League has come the closest, with Psyonix confirming that Xbox One, PC and Switch will all get to face-off.
However, this doesn’t include the biggest-selling console, the PS4 or PS4 Pro and therefore lacks the full crowning glory of cross-play potential.
PlayStation have commented in the past that this is connected with protecting their userbase when online, something they couldn’t do if they open up their network with players from Xbox, Switch and PC platforms.
And this stance doesn’t appear to be something that the company is softening over.
So until then, players can at least enjoy a level of cross-platform play with PC players, on select titles.
And a new one was just announced, with Blue Mammoth Studios now confirming that their upcoming title Brawlhalla will include this rare feature.
Brawlhalla is a free-to-play fighting game that’s already got a loyal userbase on Steam Early Access and is scheduled to arrive on PS4 later this year.
The latest update from Blue Mammoth covers the cross-platform announcement, explaining: “We are currently approved to have cross platform play.
“The only caveat is that it will only work while the two platforms are on the same patch. Our goal will be to keep them on the same version as much as possible.
“Cross-play is not currently live, but we’re expecting to have it up later in the PS4 Beta.”
As mentioned above, there will be a closed-beta available later this year, although much remains on Blue Mammoth completing the project in good time.
“We’ve been working hard on the PlayStation port, and we wanted to provide an official update on our progress.
“We have Brawlhalla running on PS4 right now, but are still cranking away at getting everything optimized. Our goal is still to get the game out this year, and a hard release date will be announced later in the PS4 Closed Beta.
“We know the PlayStation community is excited about Brawlhalla on their favorite console, and we are too.”
If you want to sign up for the Brawlhalla Closed Beta you can do so at beta.brawlhalla.com.
There’s currently no mention of a Brawlhalla port coming to Xbox One, although it’s unclear if this is because it’s a fully-fledged console exclusive, or a timed-exclusive.
Rocket League is coming to the Switch, and it brings with it the ability to play online with friends who play on PC and Xbox. The notably missing platform is Sony’s one – a situation that’s mirrored with Minecraft, which also lets players bridge the platform divide when it comes to multiplayer.
The reasons that Sony gave for keeping its network gated are sad and miserable – extending, largely, to being about the children. Rocket League developer Psyonix has once again confirmed that the only reason that PlayStation doesn’t play nice with the other platforms is purely up to Sony.
Speaking to Venture Beat, Psyonix Vice President Jeremy Dunham said that it’s all up to Sony to let the developer enable cross-platform play.
“I understand their [Sony’s] stance. We want to take care of our players,” Dunham said. “But from our perspective, if PlayStation already allows cross-network with PC, which is the least regulated of any of the partners, then in theory, having Xbox and Switch in there should be fine.
They’re a lot more regulated. From our perspective that concern is already handled. That’s taken care of.”
One of Sony’s concerns is security. They don’t want to see the same hacking situation that lost millions of PSN IDs happen again. Dunham says that’s not an issue.
“We think we’ve got it all covered…We’ve worked on all the platforms and had our engineers working on the servers. Xbox has the highest security of any of the platforms. If we can pass that, we can pass any of the other security protocols.”
There needn’t even be any real changes made to any of the platform ecosystems.
“We run our own servers. We run our own matchmaking. None of the platforms are aware of what’s going on in the other’s ecosystem. We control all that.”
To make things doubly frustrating, Dunham asserts that adding cross-platform play is as simple as flicking a digital switch – and that it’s just politics that’s keeping it from happening.
“Technically, I could make a phone call to Psyonix right now and it [PS4 cross-play] would be up and running before you left the room. The problem is just the political barrier that prevents it from happening.”
So is it going to happen? Will PlayStation 4 gamers be able to play multiplayer with Xbox One and Switch players? It could – you just need to make your voice heard. Dunham says that gamers need to let Sony know that they want to be able to play with others.
“It’s up to the community to say, ‘This is what we want,’ and say it consistently,” he said, drawing comparisons to the features implemented in-game in response to community requests.
That’s gaming now. Gaming should be community-driven. That’s why it’s up to them to help push us and Minecraft and all the companies that want to do a similar thing. Help us push it forward.”
Microsoft first revealed it would allow Xbox gamers to play against PS4 and PC players at E3 last year, and Sony’s initial reaction seemed like it would be open to the idea. “We would be happy to have the conversation with any publishers or developers who are interested in cross platform play,” said a Sony spokesperson at the time. This week at E3, both Rocket League and Minecraft are going cross-platform play, allowing players on Nintendo’s Switch, a Windows PC, Mac, or Xbox One to play against each other. The big missing part is Sony’s PlayStation 4.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Jim Ryan, head of global sales and marketing for PlayStation, attempted to defend Sony’s block of cross-platform play. “We have a contract with the people who go online with us, that we look after them and they are within the PlayStation curated universe,” says Ryan. “Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it’s something we have to think about very carefully.”
Sony’s excuse might seem feasible if it weren’t for Nintendo, a family-oriented company, enabling the cross-platform play on its Switch console for both Rocket League and Minecraft. Instead, Sony’s excuse just looks user-hostile given all of its main rivals have enabled this functionality. Xbox chief Phil Spencer isn’t happy with the response, either. Polygon reports that Spencer seemed offended by Sony’s excuse in an interview with Giant Bomb. “The fact that somebody would kind of make an assertion that somehow we’re not keeping Minecraft players safe, I found — not only from a Microsoft perspective, but from a game industry perspective — like, I don’t know why that has to become the dialogue. That doesn’t seem healthy for anyone,” says Spencer.
Microsoft has repeatedly reached out to Sony to try and enable this cross-platform play. “We would love to work with Sony to bring players on PlayStation 4 into our united ecosystem as well,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to Polygon. Even Spencer says “the door is open,” encouraging Sony to change its stance. Psyonix even told Polygon that cross-network play in Rocket League “would be up and running in less than an hour all over the world” if Sony removed its blocks.
It’s unlikely that Microsoft would be encouraging this type of cross-network play if it was still in a position of power and selling the most consoles in the US each month. Now that Microsoft is struggling to compete with Sony’s impressive PlayStation 4 sales, it needs to encourage things like cross-network play. Sony is in a much stronger position, and blocking cross-platform play simply encourages gamers to buy a PS4 if they want to play with their friends. If you’re the only one in your group of friends with an Xbox One then you’re probably going to be waiting until Sony’s PlayStation sales slip for any type of cross-platform play.
This isn’t the first time the two companies have been at odds over gaming features that have been blocked. Microsoft has consistently blocked mods in games like Unreal Tournament 3 and even Fallout 4, and it has refused to enable keyboard and mouse support on its Xbox 360 and Xbox One consoles. Sony enabled mods and keyboard / mouse support on its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles.
It does not happen all that often when researchers find a cross-platform malware. A new malicious Word document is a cause of great concern, though, as it can infect both Mac OS X and Windows computers alike. A very unusual development, since criminals very a rarely target the Macintosh platform due to its lesser popularity. It is unclear how harmful this new type of malware might be, though.
A Cross-Platform Malware Strain is Unusual
This latest type of malware has security researchers concerned all over the world. Even though it requires victims to manually enable macros while opening the file in question, it seems plausible to assume a lot of damage can be done. Criminals have flocked to infecting Word documents with malware over the past few months, and it appears this trend will not go away anytime soon.
Once a recipient opens the Word file in question and has macros enabled, the malware code is executed on the computer. Since this malicious software can infect both Windows and Mac OS X machines, it goes to show that criminals have quite an elaborate plan. Macintosh users are often safe from these types of attacks, since the Mac OS market share is nearly negligible. That being said, it was only a matter of time until this platform would come under scrutiny from cyber criminals.
Moreover, Mac OS users will not see the malicious file being downloaded in the background. This is made possible thanks to the Python wrapper used to distribute this malware. Once the Python script is downloaded and executed by the computer user, it will communicate with the assailant’s server to download the malware in question. The Python script in question appears to be a modded version of a Python meterpreter file, which is a common method of attack among cyber criminals these days.
The Windows malware variant is a bit more sophisticated, by the look of things. Under the hood, there are several layers of code and encryption wrapped around one another. One researcher refers to this as a “Russian nesting doll”, which seems to be an accurate description. Unlike the Mac OS X version, the Windows variant downloads a 64-bit DLL file which communicates with the assailant’s server. This also hints at how this new malware man only affected 64-bit versions of Windows, albeit that has not been officially confirmed.
Luckily, it appears researchers have figured out how this malware spreads. Or to be more precise, they feel they figured out this process used currently, although it remains unclear how this distribution phase may evolve in the future. Moreover, there is no indication as to who may be behind this new malware. It goes to show there is a bright future ahead for Microsoft Office macro-based malware, although that does not bode well for computer users.
What is especially worrisome is how more and more malware types are deliberately attacking Mac OS users as of late. Until a few months ago, such a threat seemed nearly inconceivable. However, this goes to show the Macintosh operating system is not safe from harm by any means. In February of 2017, researchers came across another malware type affecting Mac OS systems. It is unclear if the same group is behind this new malware, though. Cross-platform malware attacks are slowly becoming a trend, that much is certain.
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