Many of the largest multiplayer video games are social experiences, inviting players to connect, compete and show off their personalised game characters.1 But crossplay – the ability to bring players together in the same game regardless of the device they use - is still uncommon. Those using a PC may not be able to play together with gamers on consoles or smartphones.
Deloitte’s 2022 Digital Media Trends survey found that US gamers are spread across multiple device platforms – smartphones, consoles and PCs (see figure). This device balkanisation can keep friends apart and frustrate players who want to move seamlessly across devices and experiences. Worse for the gaming businesses, it can fragment audiences, complicate analytics and hinder content. By overcoming platform barriers, crossplay can solve these challenges and elevate social gaming experiences.
Studios often develop games for multiple device platforms, requiring them to manage different code bases and environments to reach different audiences. Console makers, who feature games and run their own studios, have also used exclusive releases of highly anticipated AAA games to boost sales of their hardware. To play the game, you had to own their console.
With the rise of online multiplayer gaming, business models have been shifting. More titles are free-to-play, trading a one-time game purchase for regular sales of new game content and digital goods that personalise and outfit players. Social games can run for years as persistent services with periodic updates and events, enabling some to amass tens of millions of regular players. More are hosting celebrities, music events, and non-gaming brands and franchises. Game IP has grown in value, shifting emphasis further onto content and away from hardware. Growth in cloud gaming could accelerate this trend, enabling gameworlds to be truly universal.
Game studios and publishers should see crossplay as a way to bring players together, elevate gaming experiences and monetise them more effectively. They should also consider that social games may be one step away from the metaverse. As more players buy digital goods to personalise their avatars, they may want the ability to carry them across device platforms and game experiences. Game providers could potentially enable portability and interoperability of those assets within their game portfolios.
To unleash the full potential of the emerging metaverse, more universal interoperability of avatars and digital goods may be essential.2 This will likely require more cooperation among providers, signalled by recent efforts to build a coalition on metaverse interoperability.3 Web3-native blockchain disruptors are also establishing frameworks for portability and interoperability of identity, assets and transactions, which could shape social gaming on its way to the metaverse.4
Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) industry practice brings together one of the world’s largest group of specialists respected for helping shape many of the world’s most recognised TMT brands—and helping those brands thrive in a digital world.