Cross-platform multiplayer in the context of console/PC games is a concept I can fully understand. After all, the inputs and power for any of these systems are pretty much the same, despite the ongoing war of words between the different “camps” of gamers. What I don’t understand is why, suddenly, we are seeing a rise in cross-platform multiplayer compatibility with mobile devices. I mean, was anyone even asking for this? Does anyone even want it?
Take, for example, the recent introduction of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite to the mobile market. Both are hugely popular games right now, and their compatibility with mobile technology is astounding; setting a new precedent for the types of games we play on the go. The capabilities of a pocket-sized mobile phone, however, are never going to match up to the high-end gaming PCs or superpowered home consoles on which these games were first introduced. Whilst it is a triumph that they have made the transition to these devices, the limitations that simply must be placed on these versions of the game, as well as their significantly different interfaces, will always put one camp of gamers at a disadvantage to others in a cross-platform arena.
Don’t get me wrong; I am fully behind the introduction of high-end, big name games making their way onto my phone so that I can play them on the go. I am also in favour of them having multiplayer functionality. What I, and I am almost certain many other gamers, do not want to see is either myself or somebody else being placed at a significant disadvantage in a multiplayer situation, purely based on one system being more capable or more user-friendly than another. Surely, no gamer wants to set out as an underdog before they have even started, right? Therefore, I find myself asking the question that is the title to this article; who really wants cross-platform mobile gaming?
The answer, in my opinion, is not a simple “nobody” as I might hope to believe. In truth, I honestly think that, right now, gamers think that cross platform multiplayer with mobile devices is a good thing that they truly want. In the not-too-distant future, however, I think these people will realise that the concept is much more agreeable than the reality. Sometimes, no matter how much we might appreciate the idea of these “advancements” in the video games world, we simply have to accept that not all of them are for the better. I strongly believe that, in time, we will stand to rue the day we pushed for the mobile cross-platform multiplayer agenda… Alas, until said time, it is a reality which I will simply have to accept.
That being said, of course, I could yet be proven wrong. Take, for example, the impressive piece of kit that is the Nintendo Switch. Sure, it isn’t as powerful as my PC, and it certainly isn’t a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X either. What it is doing is holding its own in a competitive, high-end market. In some cases, it is also showing that cross-platform multiplayer between systems with different base capabilities can indeed work. There are two key points to consider here though. First, a Nintendo Switch is still a more capable system with a more effective method of input for gaming than a simple mobile phone. A controller, generally, will always trump a touch screen, after all. Secondly, we are talking about games like Rocket League here; a much simpler and less demanding title than a game like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, without the open world element and with far less players competing in the arena at once.
Perhaps a better starting point that leaping straight into cross-platform multiplayer with mobile in the case of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite would have been to test the waters on a system such as the Switch first instead. After all, the system has made huge leaps in Nintendo terms when it comes to sales, and there is undoubtedly a fan base who would leap at the opportunity to play some of the most popular titles in gaming today on their new favourite console. Not to mention, the addition of some high-end free to play titles on the Switch could push both the games and the console even further still. It is a win-win situation for everybody.
With the advancements which mobile gaming is making, not to mention the pace at which these are being made, I am sure before long my opinions on this matter will fall comfortably into the out-of-date folder. Nevertheless, as things stand at this moment in time, I do not feel that such devices are capable of holding up to the challenges and difficulties that their inclusion in cross-platform multiplayer presents. More than that, however, as my title suggested, I do not feel that anyone was crying out for the feature either. Have we jumped the gun? Perhaps. My biggest fear is simply this; that we have tried too hard, too soon, to make this work before anyone really asked for it. Should we fail now as a result, the prospects of these could-be epic moves forward in the future of mobile gaming may become lost in the wind…