Last December, Microsoft ran a weekend-long "competitive crossplay" test in Gears of War 4, to see what would happen when Xbox One and PC gamers were allowed to mingle and trade gunfire. The idea, it said, was to "evaluate the potential of a more permanent crossplay solution in the future to allow Windows 10 and Xbox One gamers to play together in Versus outside of Private Matches."
"Once we use the combination of our data and your feedback together, we’ll be able to make an informed next step (or not as the case may be)," The Coalition said at the time. "The key thing we want to stress is that we won’t be making any surprise changes all of a sudden based on this weekend."
Surprise! They made changes, based on that weekend. "Today, we are excited to announce a major step in the future of Gears of War 4 Versus Multiplayer with the introduction of cross-play between Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs in Social Quickplay!" the studio announced today.
"Late last year, we conducted a cross-play Test Weekend to bring our Windows 10 and Xbox One fans together in public Versus Multiplayer, combining fan feedback and extensive data gathering to help us decide the next steps to take to deliver a matchmaking cross-play Versus experience," the announcement says. "When we looked at the extensive data we received thanks to the incredible participation from our community, there was a clear message – it works."
Social Quickplay will now be available as a permanent Cross-play playlist, although the first few months are being treated as a trial period to ensure that the test weekend wasn't a fluke. But "it works" only goes so far: Core and Competitive play will remain segregated in order to ensure they remain "as closely matched and competitive as possible." The studio added that it will also look at "introducing new Core and Competitive solutions for Windows 10 players in the future."
It makes me wonder what's changed from 2010, when Voodoo PC founder Rahul Sood claimed that Microsoft had put the kibosh on a plan to enable cross-platform play between the PC and Xbox 360 because PC gamers, armed with fast, precise mice and keyboards, would routinely smoke their controller-equipped console counterparts. It don't know if the story is true—it certainly sounds plausible; all else being equal, a mouse is simply faster and more accurate than a controller—but if it is, Microsoft has clearly figured out how to overcome that gap. That's good news not just for Gears 4, but all cross-play games.
A few other interesting stats from the December test weekend:
- Over 750,000 Matches Played
- Over 115,000 Unique Participants – 91/9 split from Xbox to Windows 10
- Average of 6.2 matches played by Xbox users, with 11.2 for Windows 10 users
- Over 90% of all matches during the weekend included a mix of Windows 10 and Xbox One players
- Windows 10 and Xbox players had closely-matched results when comparing Average KD, Score and Kills per match based on skill ratings
- The quality of matches improved for both Xbox and Windows 10 users – social lobbies had a higher average user count, and players completed 95% of all social matches entered vs 90% prior to Cross-play Weekend