Microsoft is dramatically expanding the reach of its Xbox Live gaming platform, with new plans to roll-out its popular in-game achievements, social tools, and multiplayer functionality to rival gaming systems, like the Nintendo Switch, and smartphone operating systems, including iOS and Android.
First spotted by Windows Central, the revelation comes courtesy of a schedule for the Game Developers Conference (GDC), which will be held March 18 - 22, 2019. According to the GDC schedule, Microsoft plans to introduce a new cross-platform development kit that will connect to two billion devices worldwide to Xbox Live.
"Get a first look at the SDK to 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," an excerpt of the schedule reads.
According to the schedule, the SDK (Software Development Kit) will enable Xbox Live players to take their "gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen".
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that your Xbox One games will play on your Nintendo Switch – so banish those thoughts of Gears Of War chainsaw battles on the handheld console during your morning commute. Although, Microsoft's long-awaited game-streaming system could theoretically enable this functionality at some point in the future ... Halo on iPhone, anyone?
For now, Microsoft looks set to capitalise on the recent explosion of cross-platform gaming triggered by the likes of Fortnite, Minecraft, PUBG, and Rocket League.
Although players are currently able to challenge friends on other consoles, one of the major challenges remains communication in these cross-platform scenarios. As it stands, developers have to build-in their own social features – including voice chat, and group parties – or leave out the functionality entirely.
By using Xbox Live, developers could potentially avoid spending a boatload of resources to implement these features, instead allowing Microsoft to handle the functionality using the systems it has already developed for the Xbox.
Eagle-eyed fans will notice that Sony's PlayStation is the biggest omission from the list of platforms compatible with the Xbox Live SDK.
Sony already offers the same features – including achievement trophies, friend lists, avatars and voice chat – using its rival PlayStation Network system. So, it seems highly unlikely that it would ever allow Microsoft to bring its rival Xbox Live features to its platform to enable communication between the different consoles.