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At least, why are they so difficult to make? - assuming that's the reason why not even AAA studios accomplish this feat for their games. Especially with modern cross-platform game engines like Unreal and Unity that can build on Xbox, PS4, and PC, why hasn't this been done yet on a large scale?

For example, Diablo III is a game released on a variety of platforms. Despite it being a product of Blizzard, one of the wealthiest video game companies in the world, it does not allow an Xbox player to play with someone using a PC.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One possibility, though I doubt a complete answer, is system limitations. For example the Battle 3 PC Max Players: 64 (32v32), PS3 Max Players: 24. And that is (I think) due to system limitations (this from a long forgotten source. there was some reason...) While you could limit the PC max players, that would be preventing the total possible glory your game could achieve. So it does separate systems, but it allows you to take full advantage of each system, rather than being limited to the weakest system. \$\endgroup\$ – Wolfgang Skyler May 17 '15 at 4:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh yeah, I can see why 64 player PC wouldn't work for PS3. But that doesn't explain why Diablo III, which isn't very demanding and only has a maximum of 4 players, is limited to single-platform multiplayer. \$\endgroup\$ – JPtheK9 May 17 '15 at 5:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ In Unity3D your multiplayer games will run on any platform (expect on browsers, they are limited). This is because networking is only about byte arrays, not hardware or operative system. \$\endgroup\$ – zoran404 May 17 '15 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Cross platform gaming between PC and Console is simply put unfair for most types of games. A keyboard and a mouse works infinite times better then a controller for genre's like FPS and RTS. I'm not sure about KB+Mouse on consoles but I believe you can buy some sort of a system for your Playstation and not for Xbox making PS superior. Which made me think, buying a KB+Mouse for a Playstation makes you far superior to the competition, you absolutely annihilate your proponent since it is so fast and accurate. Not sure how many people use it. \$\endgroup\$ – Madmenyo Jan 11 '18 at 9:21
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It's no real hardware or software limitation. Cross-platform gameplay is possible, if implemented. Final Fantasy XIV - A Realm Reborn is a perfect example, featuring cross-play between consoles and PC.

If a game is released on multiple consoles and/or as a PC game in parallel, non-cross-platform multiplayer is most likely a design decision either due to contractual reasons or for fairness.

A very recent example for both would be The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited. The game has been released on PC/Mac last year. Both platforms play on the same servers, so are able to play against each other or together.

However, both console versions they're releasing next month (PS4 and Xbox One) will be limited to their own platforms, i.e. PS4 players won't be able to play with non-PS4 players and XBOne players won't be able to play with non-XBOne players (and the same for PC/Mac).

The game is played on a different pace and precision when comparing mouse/keyboard and gamepad controls and since there's PvP involved, this would get PC/Mac players a clear advantage (let's ignore the fact that consoles might support mouse and keyboard, it's not the preferred input schema there).

But even besides that, couldn't PS4 and Xbox One players play with or against each other? Sure they can, but I guess neither Microsoft nor Sony really want this (Want to play with your friend? Buy him one of our consoles!).

Similar considerations might have existed for Diablo III, although it's no real PvP game (besides duelling).

The differences you mention in number of players etc. are another thing, mostly due to hardware power and framerate issues I guess. These wouldn't prevent cross-platform gameplay though, just prevent console players from entering 64 player servers (for example).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ THIS! Also: Hardware power can influence gameplay (e.g. lag, narrower field of view, shorter view distance). This can of course already be an issue on the variety of PC hardware out there, but with a console, those are fixed, so if a console is inherently slower/faster than any PC/Mac supported by system requirements, that's a reason to split them up, too. And number of players can change during gameplay in many games, which exacerbates the issue of differing limits in such a case. \$\endgroup\$ – uliwitness May 17 '15 at 12:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are right Mario. Having shipped games that could have benefited from cross platform play on Nintendo, ms and Sony consoles, each group wanted to make sure their players weren't mixed with the other players, or PC players. Their reasoning, other than the business reasons, may be what uliwitness was saying, but for turn based games and the like, there is no real technical excuse. I think its all business, as you say :p \$\endgroup\$ – Alan Wolfe May 17 '15 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's sad that business decisions make the game much less enjoyable but I see how consoles might gain an advantage with joystick movement and PCs with mouse accuracy. Thanks for the thorough answer. By the way, Elder Scrolls is awesome! Haven't gotten to play Tamriel Unlimited yet but that's definitely on my list for this summer. \$\endgroup\$ – JPtheK9 May 17 '15 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rocket League sprang to mind, too. Might be helpful to include a link to a list of more examples, even though the examples you gave do suffice to answer the question. Apparently these are all cross-platform multiplayer, but I can't verify that myself: giantbomb.com/cross-platform-multiplayer/3015-4183/games \$\endgroup\$ – Jibb Smart Oct 1 '15 at 4:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gaining an advantage with input is one reason, a second one is balancing. Even if games are available for multiple platforms, there can be some extra content specific for one platform with there own items or tweaked number values which would give you an edge over the other platform. \$\endgroup\$ – Zibelas Jul 17 '17 at 10:15
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Answer: They don't exist because there are too many marketing, licensing, and other business-related obstacles.

The ports are often developed by contracted studios that are different for each platform, the xbox and ps4 both have payed subscription service for connection, different player account setups, etc and so forth. Who pays for what, and when, and how is it tracked, etc? Just a huge can of worms.

Not to mention that, the console market is very close competition and they prefer to not even indicate that the other console exists, let alone cooperate or accomodate or do anything that might help the enemy or hinder themselves.

For those and other reasons, what is more likely is to see console/pc but not console/console.

The only problem is that in fps games the pc players absolutely dominate the console players, regardless of how skilled, because a mouse is many times faster and more accurate than a thumbstick. In racing or 3rd person games, it's a much more even match.

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One of the main reason why Cross-platform is not possible is due to the security requirement of each sides.

Each console is, as we all know, like a computer, but with hard and light restrictions as to the access to the OS. That's why you hear about things like devs console and demo consoles and other "version" of a console. Each has different kind of restrictions.

Where I'm going with this is this: Consoles can act like ports toward their respective online services: PlayStation Network and Xbox Live and Nintendo **** Online Services (Like Nintendo Switch Online Services or Nintendo Wii Online Services, etc.)

Those systems are the responsibility of their respective "owner" (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) and as they allow you to chat with other players, purchase online and do many action, their security are considered paramount. If a system (like a Xbox One) could connect to another system (Like a PS4) through something like a game (which is a software), depending on the level of authorization allowed by the game's software, there's a security risk involved.

Especially with the authentication system of those games. If you allow players from a console to play with another player on another console, both uses different authentication system. Kinda like you got a player who's authentication is handled by PlayStation Network while another player has its authentication handles by Xbox Live. How do you make it so that the PlayStation player can "download" the player's data (icon, name, etc.) from the Xbox player? How do you handle communication between both? How would you handle things like friends/Message?

There are 3 possible solutions:

1) Every console would use 1 single authentication service. That's close to impossible. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would never allow such a thing. That's because this would involve, for one of them at least, some kind of cost like a cut from sales (usually 25%-35%) and for the other, that would means a lot of investment (and risks) for better hardware.

2) The game publisher run its own hosting server. This requires a long and painful process of approbation from all concerning parties involved. Basically, this requires that a per-authorized server load players data from both system and only that server can manage the player data from both consoles at once. The PlayStation doesn't access Xbox Live and vise versa. They both access a third party server that load and upload the data.

The game Rocket League does something similar to that way with PC gamer (Using Steam) and PlayStation 4 gamer (using PlayStation Network). PC gamer only see the name of the players from PSN as that information is public. PC gamer can't see the PSN player's icon as that is restricted. (Instead, PC player only see PSN icon). The server connects the clients, but doesn't do anything like managing the purchases. Instead, it's a Key-Based secured transaction system (similar to Paypal's Key-Link system you use every time your use PayPal) which is managed by PSN and Steam directly which is then managed by the local console. (So a Steam PC can't access the PSN account at all.)

The main issue with this solution, outside of data fetching being quite restricted and complex to implement, is that you got to keep all ports compatible, meaning if you release a patch for PlayStation with new content, that content must be available and ready for PC or any other console. This makes it like you got to make 2 or more build of your game at once, test them, release them, be ready for double the bug/crash report etc.

3)Each consoles run on a separate partition/layer on the server. This is what's usually happens with most console driver MMOs. 1 networks that act as a server for all the consoles and PC, but each access a different part of the system. This system doesn't requires that each port has the same version nor anything. The only thing is that PSN can't join XBox Live and neither can the PCs. Each are "in their own world".

This is why you don't rarely see any interactivity shared between consoles and PC. Too much risks of problems and restrictions. 99% of the cases uses 3). The remaining 1% usually involve a simplistic system like Rocket League where you only load names of the other player's profile and their latest action through a streaming sub-system.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The idea of a publisher maintaining their own dedicated servers for hosting games, or their own authentication system not tied to a particular platform, is not as impractical as this answer makes it out to be. In fact we can easily find examples of exactly this in the wild - Ubisoft Uplay for instance is one authentication service that integrates with Ubisoft games across multiple platforms, including PCs and consoles from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. The parts of this answer describing issues keeping all platforms synchronized on the same game/patch version are more on the mark. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Jan 4 '18 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Damn, I pressed enter and posted my comment incomplete) There's 1 small mistake in your comment. Ubisoft Uplay isn't exactly the same as a "shared" system. It's actually a secondary process that runs on its own separated from the games themselves. The data that is shared between the PC and the consoles is quite limited and "never" concern monetary values. For example, you can't use Uplay to unlock a paid DLC on the console without going through the console's digital store (PSN or Xbox Store or Nintendo Store). \$\endgroup\$ – user3345048 Jul 3 '18 at 2:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ To give an example, the game Warframe uses the same servers for managing both the PC and consoles, but each has its own "version" of the game and it's not rare that the PC version gets the new version 1-2 months ahead of the console (which is always precised in the updates). Buying platinum (in-game cash shop currency) might varies depending on which platform you play the game. On PC, you're able to get +% platinum bonus with daily bonus. On Console, the equivalent bonus is given through the discount in the shop instead because Microsoft and Sony doesn't allow client-based discounts. \$\endgroup\$ – user3345048 Jul 3 '18 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only way that could accommodate for every ports (consoles and PC) requirement would be a game that has no subscription, no micro-transaction shop and where everything related to the progress would be locally stored or stored through a 2nd process (like UPlay). Such a thing would mostly be abysmal from any of the companies like Steam, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo and others who makes a majority their "share" from such game through their micro-transaction. (A bit like old online games like Diablo 2 where you were buying physical expansions from the local store.) \$\endgroup\$ – user3345048 Jul 3 '18 at 3:03

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