Want to play the latest FPS, MMO, or frantic cooking video game with your friends? With online capabilities for games getting bigger than ever, it’s never been easier to pick and play with people all over the world – though the growth of cross-play looks set to break down one of the last major barriers to players stuck on different gaming platforms.
But it’s become increasingly clear that we have the technological ability to play cross-platform games, especially as PlayStation and Xbox consoles share pretty similar processing architecture (and are basically dedicated gaming PCs). In the months after the release of a big online game, too, player numbers tend to dwindle, and being able to expand team matchmaking across platforms can be a big boon to both dedicated fans and the longevity of the game itself.
We know some publishers like Ubisoft are looking to make all of their PvP games cross-play, and that trend is only set to continue. So if you’re after cross-play games that don’t limit you to one platform, here’s our in-depth guide to all the ones you need.
New cross-play games
The latest high-profile game to get cross-play is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), which you can play across PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One.
Activision calls it “the first time in Call of Duty franchise history that players on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC can play together. Along with this unified experience, crossplay also enables cross-progression, which means your progression in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare will carry over across all platforms linked to the same Activision/Call of Duty account.”
Cross-play: what is it?
Cross-play is the ability to play an online video game across more than one platform – meaning someone playing Fortnite on Nintendo Switch could be on the same server as someone using an Xbox One – as well as allowing players to access their player data from those different consoles.
Big-name games that focus on broadly accessible play are the most likely to support cross-play, such as the battle royale game Fortnite, or the building block simulator Minecraft.
However, this is by no means common practice across the board – not helped by the push for exclusive games across all platforms, which prevents there being as much of a glut of titles with the potential for cross-play.
Why aren’t all games cross-play?
There are a few major players leading the charge here. Microsoft’s Play Anywhere initiative means that many Xbox titles, once bought, can also be played on PC. Given Microsoft develops both the Xbox platform and the Windows operating system, this seems pretty straightforward – and enables cross-play on some (though not all) Play Anywhere games.
We’re seeing growth of cross-play in AAA games between Xbox and PlayStation – and despite the latter lagging behind on this front, progress is being made.
But there is a development cost to including cross-play; hence why you don’t see it across the board. If the code for a game isn’t written to allow play of this kind, it’s not that simple to introduce retrospectively either.
Overwatch developer Wes Yanagi has commented on how “Cross-play is something that would definitely be compelling for players, and as a player, I would love to see it happen. The truth is that implementing cross-play for Overwatch is more difficult than people realise” (via GameSpot).
Shawn Layden, the departing chairman of PlayStation Worldwide Studios, was also widely quoted for saying that “enabling cross-play isn’t just about flipping a switch and ‘there you go’. It’s a very multi-dimensional kind of attribute or feature” (via Eurogamer).
Even as it becomes more technically possibly, platform manufacturers can also be hesitant – cough, Sony, cough – to open up cross-platform play, given they want players to be on their platform and not any others.
But what games actually are cross-play? You can see our guide to the top 10 cross-play games below.
10 essential cross-play games
Fortnite (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC, mobile)
The hugely popular online battle royale game Fortnite is the go-to cross-play game for its ease of play and support across consoles, PC, iOS and Android. With Fortnite Chapter 2 having kicked off a brand new island map too, with new mechanics like swimming and motorboats, it’s never been a better time to jump in.
Minecraft (Xbox One, Switch, PC, mobile)
Want more crafting than shooting? Minecraft is the bestselling PC game ever, and for good reason: its simple interface and building mechanics allow for a huge amount of player creativity and complexity, whether you’re building a floating castle, and underground lava pit, or a giant in-game arcade machine. The world is your blocky oyster.
Rocket League (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC)
A quirky soccer remix that sees you knocking around footballs and scoring goals in fast-moving cars – as silly and chaotic as it should be – and one of the earliest games to get such broad cross-play support.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
The latest instalment in the Call of Duty franchise tackles 21st century warfare head on, with a big focus on how civilians get caught up in urban battlegrounds. Regardless of the campaign, though, the multiplayer will be as slick and polished as ever.
Hearthstone (PC, mobile)
A free-to-play card game that expands the lore of World of Warcraft, and has built up a massive following – while the cross-play with mobile allows for far more flexible play across platforms.
PUBG (Xbox One, PS4)
The battle royale game couldn’t quite keep up with the success of Fortnite, but it still has a sizeable audience worldwide – and supports cross-play between Xbox One and PS4. You can’t cross-play between all platforms, though.
Street Fighter V (PS4, PC)
Limited cross-play, but the 2016 Street Fighter game shows the start of side-scrolling punch-ups moving beyond the restrictions of particular platforms.
Wargroove (Xbox One, Switch, PC)
An indie strategy game inspired by the legacy of Advance Wars – this time in a medieval fantasy setting. More dragons and magic than tanks and airplanes, but the sprite-based warfare is still very much worth your time, whatever the platform.
Dauntless (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
A free-to-play action game published by Epic Games, which you can play either solo or in groups of up to four people. In the vein of Monster Hunter you take on massive ‘Behemoths’ that have wrecked the land, though these monsters can be handled in maybe 20 minutes.
DC Universe Online (PS4, PC)
An action MMO set in the DC Universe, with the likes of Batman, Flash, the Joker and more populating a comics-inspired world. Why play alone when your friends on PC and PS4 can join you?