Microsoft may be expanding Xbox Live to Switch, phones and PCs

Microsoft may be planning to bring Xbox Live to other platforms, including the Nintendo Switch and smartphones.

Tom's Hardware, a website that recommends "the best products for your lifestyle and budget," noticed a Game Developers Conference listing that implied Xbox Live could handle multiplayer gaming on Xbox, Windows, Switch, iOS and Android. The session is targeted at teaching game developers how to use Xbox Live to "engage your gaming community across platforms."

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At the moment, Xbox Live functions as the infrastructure for Xbox consoles to do online gaming, chat and other applications. Expanding to new platforms would expand its audience from “400 million gaming devices” to more than “2 billion devices.”

This change would make sense given Microsoft has announced it plans a service for streaming games to Xbox, Windows, Android and iOS. Such a game streaming service would need an infrastructure like Xbox Live to handle achievements, friends, matchmaking and more.

Microsoft’s blog post said Project xCloud will begin public trials in 2019. It is unknown when this expansion of Xbox Live would happen.

According to Tom’s Hardware, the new Xbox Live will allow cross-platform multiplayer among Android, iOS, Switch and games purchased in the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs. This would be a change for many PC players who primarily use the online store Steam to buy games.

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One conspicuously missing platform is PlayStation. Microsoft and Nintendo have promoted cross-platform multiplayer in part because the latter doesn't see itself as a competitor to Microsoft. Sony, however, does. Gamers should not expect to see Xbox Live on PlayStation.

Expect more details at this GDC session. The conference takes place March 18 - 22 in San Francisco.

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