The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are roughly a couple months away from launch, but many still aren't sure what to expect from the next-gen systems. One such person is Raptr CEO Dennis Fong, who told GamesIndustry International recently that "it's just too early to tell" how the new consoles will work with the community-focused cross-platform gaming service.
Whatever policies the two companies adopt regarding their online service's player profiles, Fong suggested they could represent Raptr's biggest strength or greatest challenge when it comes to the new consoles. One of Raptr's primary functions is to provide its 18 million users with a cross-platform profile that collects all of their Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam achievements and trophies in the same place, something which is only possible if the platform holders have set their user profiles up to be somehow accessible by a third party.
With Microsoft and Sony increasingly embracing social functions, live-streaming, and even things like self-publishing for independent developers, there seems to be a trend toward increased openness of all kinds in the console world. One might think that bodes well for Raptr, but Fong isn't about to assume their cooperation.
"It seems like it would be a no-brainer, but you just never know with big companies," Fong said. "Especially big companies that are going through massive upheaval, which I think both PlayStation and Xbox to some extent are going through that right now."
"I think overall Xbox has been way more progressive and open, just in general."
If history is any indication, Fong has reason to be optimistic about Xbox One.
"I think overall Xbox has been way more progressive and open, just in general," Fong said.
The executive said he'd met most of the key people behind Xbox Live, and said Microsoft as a whole tends to be more open, likely as a result of its history in the PC platform. Microsoft also provides Raptr with direct feeds of data to help them streamline the integration of Xbox Live information into the service.
"PlayStation on the other hand, has been very, very closed, almost to the point of ignorance, in terms of trying to control every little thing that goes through PlayStation and what their users see," Fong said. "So getting them to release any kind of data, user profile data and such, has been a lot like pulling teeth."
In the past, Fong said Raptr dealt with Sony through various committees including people from around the world. The result was a very slow process in which nothing ever got done, he said. Fong also chalked it up in part to Japanese Internet culture, which he described as different from the rest of the world, "less open, more controlling."
Despite that, there may be hope for increased cooperation with Sony on the PS4. Fong noted that Sony seems to have given its American arm, particularly Gaikai, more influence regarding the system's online elements this time around, "so it definitely seems more open."
One platform that seems a long shot for full support from Raptr is the Wii U. Fong said he's had discussions with Nintendo, but that the company's audience skews considerably younger than Raptr's target demographic. Where Raptr wants to increase the social connectivity of gamers, Fong said Nintendo has almost been discouraging interactions with strangers, pointing to the deliberately clunky Wii friend code system as evidence.
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