Warframe dev says cross-play is 'one of the highest-risk things we can do'

Over the last year, cross-play has quickly become an exciting frontier for games. The ability to play with anyone—regardless of what platform they're on—is an obvious benefit to players, which is why it was so frustrating to see companies like Sony stand in the way for so long. But with Fortnite and Rocket League now offering unrestricted cross-play across various platforms, the big question is what other games will be next?

During a Warframe developer livestream on Twitch, one viewer asked whether Warframe, which recently launched on Switch and is consistently one of the biggest games on PC, would ever have cross-play. Considering Warframe's MMO-style of progression and community, being able to play on the go or with friends on other consoles is an obvious boon for PC players. But the reality, creative director Steve Sinclair explains, is very complicated.

"As a player I would love it," Sinclair said. "As a developer, it's one of the highest-risk things we can do. Because a lot of the games that are doing it—it's still very early days for this—A lot of those games came late to the platforms and had different negotiating environments to establish their contracts. On top of that, we are a game that is constantly changing. We change the game modes, we change the gameplay. We do huge, huge swings constantly, so, it is something that we're all interested in and we do discuss it."

Although we would like to do this, I don't think it is something that we can promise right now in January.

Steve Sinclair, creative director

Warframe's development is nearly constant. Patches and hotfixes are rolled out on an almost weekly basis, which is one of the reasons why PC and consoles operate on different timelines. For example, Fortuna, Warframe's big new open-world update, launched on PCs a full month earlier than consoles—and it's still not out on Switch yet. Doing cross-play would require unifying these three branches.

"Although we would like to do this, I don't think it is something that we can promise right now in January," Sinclair admitted.

There is hope, though. One of the biggest benefits to cross-play in Warframe would be the option to carry progress over between platforms. When the Switch version launched, players could temporarily choose to migrate their accounts from PC and other consoles to the Switch version, but that was a permanent move. If you want to play on both PC and Switch, you'd need two separate accounts—far from ideal in such a massive MMO-style game.

Sinclair says that while full cross-play might not be possible, the team is interested in finding ways to "share progress or share items" between platforms. So while you might not be able to play with your friends on PS4, you could jump seamlessly jump between platforms. "Those things are a lot more doable than getting everything in sync and doing complete cross-play," Sinclair says. "Maybe it's more of a gradual step for us than an overnight switch."

I wouldn't hold my breath, though. During that same livestream Digital Extremes laid out Warframe's entire 2019 roadmap and it's jam-packed with updates. I doubt cross-play will happen this year.

But there's still hope. What I wouldn't give to be able hop off my PC and play Warframe on my Switch in bed—just like god intended.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.