With the release of Windows 10, one of Microsoft's new headline features is Cross-Play between Xbox One and PC players. This isn't the company's first foray into cross platform play.
Back in 2007, FASA studios, which had a first-party publishing deal with Microsoft, released Shadowrun, a fast-paced shooter that could be played competitively between Xbox 360 and PC players. Despite a lot of talk ahead of release about console players holding their own against PC players, after release multiplayer matches were dominated by those playing with a mouse and keyboard.
I was able to ask Shannon Loftis, Microsoft's head of publishing (and the producer of Shadowrun) why this time it's going to be different.
"Shadowrun was not a great candidate for Cross-Play because, as you say, it’s a competitive shooter where different configurations perform differently," Loftis admitted. "I would agree that was an experiment that didn’t turn out the way we wanted.
"What we’re doing [with Cross-Play] is trying to be smart about which games would play well. I think that a cooperative game or a turn-based game is just going to benefit from having more gamers to play. Cross-Play makes sense in that situation."
For this reason, Microsoft doesn't intend on making Cross-Play a feature for all its upcoming games. Racing games like Forza will likely remain developed only for the Xbox One, and not for the PC. However, you will be able to stream Xbox One games to your PC, so it's sort like Microsoft's finally bringing its exclusives over to Windows.
Loftis also said that "there are a few technologies that have emerged since the release of Shadowrun." With Windows 10 and Xbox One now sharing very similar operating systems developers can handle processing on Microsoft's cloud servers. This essentially boils down the difference between the two systems to their input devices. "Before this you basically had to write two games and then try to make them work together," Loftis explains. "With the cloud and Windows 10, you’re writing one game and adapting the inputs."
As well as Cross-Play, Microsoft is introducing Cross-Buy. The way it works is that when you buy a Microsoft game on Xbox One, if there is also a PC version, then you will get a free copy for the PC. This extra copy will be free and Cross-Buy games won't cost any more than normal games. The free copy will be linked to your account, though, so you won't be able to share it out to friends. Also, Loftis, did say that not every game released on both systems will come with Cross-Buy, it's done on a case by case basis.
Correction – 7/8/2015: In the previous paragraph, we incorrectly state that cross-buy is effectively a 'buy once, play anywhere' model – this is not the case. The following statement clears up the confusion:
“Cross-buy for games like “Fable Legends” and “Gigantic” refers to in-game purchases and downloadable content that can be accessed whether you are playing on Xbox One or Windows 10. As we bring more titles to Windows 10 and Xbox One and enable rich cross-device scenarios, we will continue to listen to our fans and evaluate what’s best for each individual game.” – a Microsoft spokesperson