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June 15, 2021
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Five years in, Blizzard announces cross-play for  Overwatch

Five years in, Blizzard announces cross-play for Overwatch

June 9, 2021 | By Alissa McAloon

Blizzard is finally lowering the barriers between platforms and bringing cross-play to both console and PC versions of its 6v6 competitive shooter Overwatch.

This means that Overwatch will soon join a growing list of games that allow matchmaking across platform lines, which isn't always as straightforward of a process as it may seem.

The change isn't live quite yet, but Blizzard has taken to its blog to explain what cross-play will look like on each different platform, and how its inclusion will change the overall gameplay experience for existing Overwatch players.

A particularly notable shift is that all Overwatch players on any platform will now be required to have one of Blizzard's accounts, even if they choose to disable cross-play on their end. Cross-play itself is enabled by default on all platforms, though everyone but PC players have the option to disable it and instead queue with only those that have opted out of the feature.

One of the more challenging parts for developers implementing cross-platform play has always been maintaining balance between different platforms and control styles, and Overwatch doesn't appear to be exempt.

Blizzard has already said that it won't offer cross-play for the game's dedicated competitive mode. For the rest of the cross-play-using playerbase, particularly on console, aim assist will be disabled in order to, in Blizzard's words, "equalize play during the match" for controller and mouse and keyboard players.

Another factor that's of note given Overwatch's heavy library of loot box-unlockable cosmetics is that the update will not include any sort of cross-progression between platforms quite yet, though support is planned down the line. This means any skins, emotes, or other cosmetics unlocked on one platform will not carry over to another if, for example, an Xbox player decides to play on PC.

Cross-play itself has been a tricky topic to broach with platform owners until just recently, and that's even more true for cross-progression where purchasable currency and items come into play. Xbox and even the Nintendo Switch started creating pathways for cross-platform play in just the last few years, with PlayStation-maker Sony being noticeably more resistant to allowing its playerbase to mingle with other consoles or platforms online.

Sony eventually created a program for developers to pursue cross-play but, as we learned in the recent Epic Games v. Apple trial, those deals sometimes feature "compensation policies" that include additional revenue share to make up for the fact that, in Sony's eyes, cross-play itself doesn't directly improve PlayStation's business. 

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