Cross-platform play may not be as important to gamers as many in the industry believe, with the results from GameTrack's Q4 2017 survey showing a general indifference to the trend among consumers.
The value of PlayStation, Xbox and PC owners being able to play together has been a regular feature in the news over the last 12 months. Microsoft has made cross-platform play between console and PC a core feature of its first-party strategy, while Sony has been widely criticised for its apparent reluctance to allow cross-platform functionality between PlayStation and Xbox.
However, in a GameTrack survey that spanned gamers in the UK, France, Germany and Spain in Q4 of last year, a question presented by GamesIndustry.biz revealed a lack of belief in the value of gamers playing together across platforms: when asked about their feelings on cross-platform play in general, 58% of respondents admitted to being "Indifferent" to the trend.
"The GameTrack survey shows that cross-platform play is not an important factor in how consumers think about purchasing consoles"
It's worth noting that only 8% felt either "Fairly Negative" or "Very Negative" about the industry's current push towards tearing downs the barriers around gaming platforms, and a total of 34% saw it as Fairly or Very Positive thing overall. But, ultimately, the largest number of respondents weren't moved in either direction.
This is a surprising outcome for what has proved to be a divisive issue within the industry. Minecraft, Rocket League, Ark: Survival Evolved and Fortnite, among others, have all been the focus of debate around cross-platform play at some point in the last year, often due to Sony's clear lack of interest in allowing its customers to play with Xbox owners.
The GameTrack Q4 survey shows that cross-platform play is not an important factor in how gamers think about purchasing consoles, though. When presented with the idea that it would make them more likely to buy a console they might not otherwise, 54% of respondents in Europe either Slightly or Strongly disagreed, with 38% disagreeing Strongly. That's compared to just 13% who agreed with the statement.
Similarly, 56% disagreed to some extent that cross-platform play would make them more likely to subscribe to a console or computer's online service - compared to 13% who agreed.
The same trend was evident in statements about software: 48% of respondents disagreed that cross-platform play would be an incentive to buy a game they otherwise might not, versus 17% who agreed; and 49% of respondents disagreed that cross-platform functionality would make them more likely to play online than they currently do, compared to 17% who agreed.
Microsoft's Phil Spencer has been open about his desire to unite the disparate communities on Xbox and PlayStation, and has publicly commented on Sony's reluctance to agree - both directly and indirectly - on several occasions.
"I know there is a certain view that says if my friends have this console, they can't play with people who buy another console. That's a reason they go buy my console," he said last year. "That reason is not going to go away. So we're putting Minecraft out there as one of the biggest games on any platform and allowing people to play together regardless of what device they bought.
"That one remaining barrier will inevitably come down"Tim Sweeney, Epic Games
"I don't think everybody is taking that same approach to the ecosystem. So I'm never going to call anything a lost cause, but I think some of the fundamental reasons and certain scenarios, they're not really going away. So I don't know what would change."
Whether cross-platform play has the potential to influence purchasing decisions among consumers or not, there is a view within the industry that dissolution of the barriers between platforms will happen soon. Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz at GDC this year, Epic's Tim Sweeney talked about the unprecedented levels of cross-platform integration in Fortnite - which allows people to play the same game on console, PC and mobile.
The only platforms that don't allow it are Xbox and PlayStation, but Sweeney was unequivocal in his belief that it is only a matter of time before they seek and establish common ground.
"I think it's inevitable now," he says. "Games have become social experiences in the same way that Facebook or Twitter have, and these experiences only really make sense if gamers can communicate with all of their friends.
"For Sony and Microsoft to support their customers well they have to be open to all their customers' friends - their real world friends - otherwise they're breaking up real-world social groups. Like kids in school have their friends, and do you expect this platform schism to divide them into two separate groups that can't play together? No. It's got to come together now.
"That one remaining barrier will inevitably come down."