February 4, 2019 // 11:48 a.m.
Microsoft has telegraphed plans to bring support for its Xbox Live service to non-Xbox devices, including smartphones, tablets, and the Nintendo Switch, as part of an effort to promote cross-platform gaming.
Launched in 2002 for the original Xbox console, Microsoft's Xbox Live is a combination of digital distribution and multiplayer gaming platform - the latter, in most cases, requiring a paid subscription known as Xbox Live Gold for which players get cloud saves, discounts on games, the ability to play multiplayer titles, and a selection of free games each month. As its name suggests, Xbox Live has traditionally been exclusive to Microsoft's Xbox games console family - though it was extended to include Windows as Games for Windows Live in 2007, then Windows Phone devices in 2010, and even found its way to the company's ill-fated Zune media player platform in 2008 as Zune Social.
Now, though, the company is looking to spread the platform further. In a presentation scheduled for the Game Developers Conference 2019 (GDC19), spotted in the schedule by Windows Central, the company has promised to bring Xbox Live to 'over 2B [two billion] devices with the release of our new cross-platform XDC [Xbox Developers Kit]'.
The shift, the company's presentation synopsis explains, will see Xbox Live connectivity added to Android and iOS smart devices as well as the Nintendo Switch, alongside the current Xbox and Windows platforms. Not named in the document is Microsoft rival Sony and its PlayStation platform, which has traditionally been locked out of cross-platform gaming initiatives by Sony's restrictive licence agreements.
The new functionality isn't to be confused with the company's existing 'Xbox Glass' software for smartphones: The XDK as described would allow developers to add full Xbox Live functionality, from Achievements to cross-platform gaming, to their non-Xbox titles on a range of platforms. Quite when it will be ready for end users, however, isn't clear, though more information will be forthcoming during GDC19 in March.