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Cross-platform play between Xbox One and PC "makes a lot of sense", says Spencer

"I'm not allowed to leak things," hints Microsoft Studios boss

Valve's Chet Faliszek once told me that console-versus-PC multiplayer was a "gimmick", a gratuitous feature that's fatally hindered by differences in control scheme. That hasn't stopped players asking for it, however. Among the latest to pop the question is Steve Farrelly from AusGamers, who queried Microsoft Studios corporate vice-president Phil Spencer on the subject while discussing Xbox One's decidedly PC-ish architecture.

Now that the new Xbox contains a Windows-based partition, and given that every publisher under the sun is rushing to cross the streams between consoles and other devices, is it possible that certain games will allow the PC Master Race to engage Xbox One owners in open war?

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"I'm not allowed to leak things," Spencer said with a smile. "But I think what you're talking about makes a lot of sense. Now, you have differences in Windows gaming and console gaming around control and input... in fact if you go back to Shadow Run on Xbox 360 - something I worked on - we had PC players playing against Xbox 360 customers. We didn't have tremendous success with that, but we learnt a lot from it.

"And then earlier this year we released Skulls of the Shogun, which was a game we launched on all three platforms on the same day, and you could start on one platform and then save the game to the Cloud and play across any of the screens and progress. And then Halo: Spartan Assault has some links between Halo 4 and Spartan Assault, even though they're very different games.

"This connected ecosystem across all the different devices is definitely where I think the future of gaming is going," he went on. "You don't have to do it as a developer, but you have the capability and I think a system like Xbox Live across all those screens where you know who someone is and who their friends are, what their Achievements are and their progression is really critical to that."

"Auxiliary" crossover - like that you'll find in Battlefield 4, which allows Xbox One players to Command the troops via a tablet - isn't quite the same as direct head-to-head between platforms, however. In the event, how would Microsoft balance the playing field to ensure that PC players tapping away at hotkeys don't simply outpace those who bring a controller to the fight?

Well, one way of doing that would be to equip Xbox One with mouse and controller support. "I'll write it down," Spencer commented. "We don't have anything to announce right now, but I'll write it down: So you want keyboard and mouse support on Xbox One?"

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This follows certain telling remarks on the part of Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb. "We'll certainly have this great SDK for developers to do what they like," he said of mouse and keyboard support in a chat with Newegg Arcade, as reported by Gamespot. "If that's something they're interested in doing, we'll certainly help them do that.

"You pointed out, as a lot of people forget, designing for a 2-foot gaming experience versus perhaps a nine or ten-foot experience is a little bit different. So they have to be really focused on what is that like and they're maximising for the largest possible audience. Certainly it's possible, but we don't have anything to announce at this time."

Read more about Xbox One's intriguing partitioned design in our feature on why setting aside RAM for apps is good for developers and gamers.

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