The Xbox Live is no longer an Xbox exclusive. In their announcement, which will be further explained in their session Xbox Live: Growing & Engaging Your Gaming Community Across iOS, Android, Switch, Xbox, and PC (Presented by Microsoft) at GDC, Microsoft has announced it is bringing the Xbox Live service to Nintendo and mobile platforms.
Microsoft has stated that bringing the network to other platforms will “enable game developers to connect players between iOS, Android, and Switch in addition to Xbox and any game in the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs.”
In the description of the event, it states that “Xbox Live players are highly engaged and active on Xbox and PC, but now they can take their gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen.” This embrace of other platforms is not unprecedented for Microsoft, considering its acceptance of cross-play between Xbox One and other gaming platforms. Furthermore, services such as Xbox Play Anywhere have broadened the scope of the Xbox brand by allowing players to play their Xbox One games on PC as well.
Whilst details are somewhat scant for now, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of bringing Xbox Live to the PS4. Considering Sony’s somewhat hostile approach to cooperation with Microsoft even for cross-play on popular multiplayer titles, it would probably unlikely that they would accept a rival company’s service on their platform. Sony have since opened up somewhat towards cross-play, however the announcement doesn’t suggest that branching out the service to the PS4 is a high priority.
Nintendo allowing Xbox Live on the Switch is somewhat surprising, but not as unlikely as Sony, considering Nintendo’s more welcoming attitude towards cross-platform play. The Nintendo Switch’s unusual niche of being both a handheld and home console do not really place it in direct competition with Microsoft, which has potentially made it more valuable for the two companies to cooperate on projects like this.
So what does this potentially mean for the Xbox Live brand going forward? Well, it isn’t quite being able to play Halo on the Nintendo Switch, but it does present the Xbox Live service as beyond being associated specifically with the Xbox platform, and allowing players to access their friends lists and other social features to whatever their preferred platform is.
We will be hearing more about Microsoft’s future plans for Xbox Live at GDC in March 2019.