Xbox Live's plans for Nintendo Switch and mobile aim to break down console walls

Phil Spencer, Xbox's head executive, has long stressed that Microsoft's plan for the future lies in letting users enjoy games beyond merely owning an Xbox console.

Xbox Live is growing beyond the Xbox One and Windows PC OS. Soon enough, games on Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android will also support Xbox Live integration through a new software development kit, according to a new report from Variety.

The news comes just over a month before the 2019 Game Developers Conference, where Xbox is set to host a session called "Growing and Engaging Your Gaming Community Across Platforms.” That event’s page noted that Xbox Live "is expanding from 400 million gaming devices and a reach to over 68 million active players to over 2 billion devices" thanks to a new cross-platform Xbox development kit, Eurogamer reports.

“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,” the post reads.

Once the new cross-platform development kit is available, Xbox Live will let players "watch, buy, play, pause, and continue their games from one device to the next on top of the most reliable social and multiplayer network in the world," Variety also notes. The GDC session’s description has since been edited, instead noting that attendees will get a "first look at the SDK to enable game developers to connect players across platforms."

While it remains unclear just how exhaustive the new development kit will be and which games will embrace its integration, the move follows an ongoing attempt by Xbox head Phil Spencer to bring Xbox’s services outside of its consoles and onto multiple devices. Last June, Spencer told the Guardian that Xbox pivoted to "thinking about the gamer first, not the device first" around three or four years before E3 2018. Now, Xbox's focus is "on bringing console quality games that you see on TV or PC to any device.”

“I want to see the creators that I have relationships with reach all two billion people who play games, and not have to turn their studio into something that makes match-3 games rather than story-driven single player games,” Spencer explained last year. “Because that’s the only way to reach a bigger platform. That is our goal: to bring high-quality games to every device possible on the planet.”

To that end, Microsoft is developing Project xCloud, a gaming streaming technology that "will offer you the freedom to play on the device you want without being locked to a particular device,” according to the project’s announcement blog post.

Granted, this isn’t the first time Xbox Live has appeared on a platform outside of Windows and the Xbox One. Minecraft users on Nintendo Switch, for example, can already enjoy cross-platform play by signing into their Microsoft account and joining up with their Xbox Live friends.

But as Xbox plans to unveil its future cross-platform technology, it’s safe to say that Spencer’s plans are coming to fruition. He’s giving developers the tools they need to access gamers across consoles and demographics, instead of separating consumers based on which console they own. That technology has the power to connect gamers regardless of their age and financial situation. As long as they own a device compatible with Xbox Live and a game with cross-platform play, they can theoretically join in with friends on other consoles.

“The more we work together as an industry, better things happen,” Spencer told the Guardian last year. “You have an Android and I have an iPhone; I can still call you. That would be my hope: that we still compete, but we compete on creative and quality.”

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Ana Valens is a games journalist from Brooklyn, New York. Her coverage at GameDaily.biz specializes in player-developer relations, long-term business trends, and gender issues in the gaming industry. Alongside her frequent contributions to GameDaily, her work has appeared at the Daily Dot, Dot Esports, Waypoint, Rolling Stone's Glixel, and Fanbyte.

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