This week, Sony Bring up a voice chat on Discord Support for PlayStation 5 controllers, marking the first time that a third-party OS-level game voice communication option has been available on Sony consoles.
Previously, PlayStation 5 users could view the game they were currently playing on their Discord profiles, but they couldn’t communicate with other players without using their phones, tablets or computers.
This release follows a similar launch on Microsoft’s Xbox consoles last fall. Discord voice calls have been available for a long time on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. The only major gaming platform out of the game is the Nintendo Switch.
With support for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, Discord is poised to be the go-to voice-over-IP service for cross-platform multiplayer gaming that has been making its way toward ubiquitousness for the first time over the past couple of years.
This is great for Discord as a platform and company, of course – and it would be great to see competing services follow so that Discord doesn’t have a monopoly on this kind of functionality.
However, despite this, even having only one service that achieves this is a huge boon for cross-play purists and a sign that the multiplayer landscape is very different from the previous console generation.
Online gamers have been clamoring for the ability to play with their friends on various platforms for at least two decades, but it’s been a long and rocky road to get to the point where the dream has become so close to reality.
There have been some outliers over the years, of course. The Sega Dreamcast, launched in 1998, took several stabs at cross-play, with game developers working with Microsoft to connect Dreamcast players and Windows PC in games like Quake 3 Arena And Phantasy Star Online.
not long after that, Final Fantasy XI It made headlines in 2002 by introducing cross-play between PlayStation 2 and PC gamers.
Noted Valve boss Gabe Newell attended Sony’s E3 press conference to announce it Gate 2 It will come to PlayStation 3 and will include cross-play with PC. That’s how I played Gate 2The co-op mode of; I played on PS3 with a friend who was playing Steam on his gaming PC.
Microsoft has spent many years gradually expanding cross-play options between Xbox consoles and Windows PCs in games like Maine Craft or the Forza franchise.
But until very recently, cross-play between console platforms was practically non-existent. Whichever console platform was the sales leader in a given generation had a strong incentive to support it. If Sony allowed PlayStation 4 players to play with their friends on Xbox One, some of the snowball effect of the console’s market dominance would have been reduced, as there was less social motivation to buy a PS4 instead of an Xbox One. The same is true of Microsoft’s dominant Xbox 360 (at least at first) and its underperforming PS3.
To finally break that it took a game so massive, so popular, and so ridiculously zeitgeist that even in its dominant position over the past several years, Sony had no choice but to acquiesce: Epic Games’ Fortnite. The game’s popularity combined with Epic boss Tim Sweeney’s controversial and outspoken activism and Microsoft’s calculated efforts to undermine Sony’s position with consumer-oriented messaging and policies has prompted Sony to change its tune.
To be clear, not everything was resolved for developers and gamers at that moment; It was later revealed that Epic had to pay Sony to offer cross-play in the game Fortnite to Compensation for Sony’s related losses.
Fortnite It wasn’t the first and only cross-play title, but it opened the floodgates like never before. While Sony hasn’t provided all developers with easy-to-use tools and APIs to facilitate cross-play, it’s starting to play nice with a growing list of developers with the ability to stick around, notably including Activision with Call of duty.
Now, there are more games than ever—big and small—that make crossplay happen, even between PlayStation and Xbox. It’s still not the majority of new games, but the trend is going in that direction.
Voice chat dilemma
Having more options is a boon for random lobbies for gamers who don’t know each other, but gamers who do know each other and want to hang out in voice chat regularly while gaming were better off sticking to one platform in most cases because there wasn’t a global voice-over service running on every platform.
For example, my wife and I started a weekly game night with her brother and three of our friends in the depths of the 2020 pandemic quarantine as a way to get some social contact.
We started playing Minecraft: Bedrock Edition And nothing else because the six of us were spread across PC, PlayStation, and Xbox, and it was one of a very small number of games that offered true cross-play across all of them. Since then, we’ve expanded into other games with the introduction of more cross-play options. But those of us playing on console had to connect to Discord on our smartphones and lower the game volume (so as not to bleed) while chatting on the phone.
Technically it worked, but it was a real problem, and it proved particularly suboptimal as we started playing competitive games like Monitoring 2where acoustic cues are important.
I have a gaming PC and this is what I usually play with the weekly collection, but for some games I either prefer to play on console or I don’t want to pay for it again on PC because I already bought the game on console before we agreed to play it. In one of those situations, I once resorted to wearing earbuds attached to the phone inside a PlayStation headset that rested above my ear while speaking into the phone’s microphone to get the full range of sound—a ridiculously complex solution that I had to think about how to write practical words clearly.
Now that Discord is on all three platforms used by the six members of our weekly gaming group, that kind of silliness will be a thing of the past. I’m pretty sure we’re not the only group like that. For example, there Final Fantasy XIV Unions of both PlayStation gamers and PC gamers, but the game does not offer an in-game voice chat solution. It’s a game that requires detailed communication between your teammates, often at a pace that typing just can’t cut, so for years PlayStation players of that game opted for ridiculous setups like the one I just described.
All that said, it’s not great that Discord is the only store in town with this kind of reach. Competition makes better products and puts consumers in a better position, and I’d like to see an alternative make headway. Considering that voice chat on consoles is the definition of a closed platform, though, and given Discord’s already well-established dominance in gaming communications, it’ll be an uphill battle for any newbie.
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