Why? Because, wrote Voodoo PC founder Rahul Sood on his blog, in internal tests pitting console and PC players against each other, “The console players got destroyed every time… So much so that it would be embarrassing to the XBOX team in general had Microsoft launched this initiative.”
We ran the question by Kevin Unangst, Microsoft Senior Director of PC and Mobile Gaming, to get his reaction to the surprising allegations.
Game On: So did Microsoft really kill cross-platform play between Windows and the Xbox 360, or was it more a developer-initiated death spiral?
Kevin Unangst: It’s complete fiction–it never died. The LIVE service has and continues to support cross-platform play between Windows and Xbox 360, and remains the only place where this feature is offered. Ultimately the decision to implement resides with the developers, and we expect to see more in the future.
GO: Did Microsoft run internal studies pitting gamepad players against keyboards/mice opponents?
KU: Absolutely. When we developed Shadowrun, cross-platform play was a brand new technology and we tested it at length to find the right balance for each platform. These tests played a strong role in the development of Shadowrun and included testers who were hardcore Counter-Strike players on PC and Halo players on console. The attention and detail that went in to play balancing between mouse/keyboard and controller was also something that informed a white paper on the subject, which we make available to developers as part of our development tools.
GO: Are Rahul Sood’s (of Voodoo PC) comments accurate when he claims the best keyboard/mice players “demolished” the best gamepad players during Microsoft-led play tests?
KU: I can’t speak to where Sood got his information, but having seen our tests it’s not an accurate generalization. Game design choices can balance or tip the scales–much in the same way that a PC game can be built to use a gamepad or keyboard and mouse, and can implement either or both well or poorly. It’s the developer’s job to find the right balance.
GO: Can you walk us through the timeline, from the point at which Shadowrun seemed to promise a viable cross-platform future, to today, where cross-platform play seems nonexistent?
KU: In addition to Shadowrun, we also saw cross-platform titles from our partners at Sega and Capcom in Universe at War: Earth Assault and Lost Planet: Extreme Condition Colonies Edition, respectively. These showcase how cross-platform play can be successful in multiple genres, from first-person shooter to real-time strategy.
GO: Will Microsoft promote cross-platform play in the future? What’s ahead for cross-platform play (if anything)?
KU: The definition of “cross platform” is changing rapidly with the rise of social and mobile gaming. We were first to deliver a platform that enabled play between the PC and console, and you can expect us to continue to innovate as the definition evolves.