Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh: Why you should get excited about cross-platform gaming

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A scene from the video game Tom Clancy's The Division.
A scene from the video game Tom Clancy's The Division.

Gaming will soon be truly cross-platform. It's about time.

A game is "cross-platform" if you can play it on more than one type of device, with another person who is playing it on another kind of device. For example, you can play new release The Division on your PS4, with your buddy who's playing on his PC.

Up until now it's been tough. Every time a new console is released, gamers everywhere have the same conversation. It goes roughly like this:

Gamer 1: "Which console are you going to buy?"

Gamer 2: "I don't know, whichever one my friends get."

And every time a cross-platform, multiplayer game comes out - a Call of Duty, or a Battlefront - there's a similar issue for those gamers with both consoles. If all your friends are getting it on PlayStation, then you're probably going to get it on PlayStation even if you prefer Xbox.

But no more, I say. No more.

After holding out for many years while PlayStation played nice with Steam libraries, Microsoft has finally decided that it's ready for cross-platform play.

At the moment, the company is just dipping its toe in the water with indie hit Rocket League. Gamers on their Xbox Ones will be able to play with their friends on PC, and Xbox has also issued an "open invitation" for other networks - meaning they're willing to work with PlayStation.

I've been playing cross-platform almost every day for the last month or so. My live-in co-op buddy's gaming PC broke down, leaving us with one PC, one Xbox One and one PS4. First-world problems, I know.

This breakdown handily coincided with us both getting the urge to revisit Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Fortunately, my co-op buddy bought the game on PS4 and voila! We were playing again. (Well, after a protracted battle to get my login details back.)

A scene from the video game Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
A scene from the video game Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

There are some issues - the UI on PS4 takes a bit of getting used to - but overall it's great. We can play a game we both really enjoy together, and we didn't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars buying another device.

All that said, role playing games like FFXIV lend themselves well to multi-platform experiences. Many developers have resisted cross-platform play for first-person shooters not out of malice or laziness, but because it's not a level playing field.

In a PC shooter, turning your character back and forth can be done in a split second. Comparatively, turning around in a console game can take an age because controllers aren't as sensitive as mouses. It's much quicker to click a button or flick your mouse to one side than it is to hold the sticks to one side for what feels like an age. If you're playing on Xbox against PC players, you could be at a serious disadvantage.

And ultimately it's up to developers to support cross-platform play - so if developers decide their games shouldn't be playable across PC and consoles, there's not a whole lot Microsoft and Sony can do.

Still, at least Xbox and PlayStation are now sharing their toys, rather than glaring at each other from their time out corners. Because it should be easy to play together.

- nzherald.co.nz

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Siobhan Keogh is the NZ Herald's gaming blogger.

Siobhan Keogh has been playing video games for almost as long as she's been able to read. Her passion for games started with Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd in Miracle World, grew when she discovered the Final Fantasy series as a teenager, and became near-obsessive when she worked as games editor for PC World magazine. She'll play almost every kind of game there is, from shooters to strategies to adventure games to Peggle, on any platform she can get her hands on. Her love of games isn't limited to the screen - she also plays both board and card games on the tabletop. When she's not gaming, she's tweeting lame jokes about games on Twitter. Occasionally she takes a breather from that and talks about running and fitness instead. Siobhan works as community manager for New Zealand's largest locally-owned technology company, but her views on gaming are her own.

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