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.