Microsoft’s Xbox Live can soon work in any Android game

Mack Sted
Created by Mack Sted
On Oct 22, 2019
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Earlier today, Microsoft announced a new cross-platform mobile software development kit (SDK) for game developers to build Xbox Live functionality into their mobile games. That means you’ll eventually see things like Xbox Live achievements, Gamerscore, clubs, and more on updated and new Android and iOS games.

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With the SDK, game developers can pick and choose which Xbox Live features make it to their mobile games. Regardless of which features game developers pick, the features will be enabled through a single sign-in to a Microsoft account.

We’ve already seen a few mobile games include Xbox Live functionality, such as the Halo mobile games and Minecraft. The difference is that only Microsoft had access to the tools necessary to build Xbox Live into mobile games.

Microsoft didn’t say if we will also see Xbox Live on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, though a previous report pegged Switch support. Microsoft also didn’t say when it would release the SDK.

On a related note, Microsoft also announced Game Stack, the company’s new initiative that puts its tools, services, and platforms under one umbrella. Game Stack includes Azure PlayFab, DirectX, Havok, Azure, Mixer, Power BI, Simplygon, Visual Studio, Visual Studio App Center, Windows, Xbox Game Studios, and Xbox Live.

PlayFab is a notable inclusion, seeing how Microsoft acquired the service in 2018 and enables multiplayer servers for games with matchmaking, voice chat, and more.

The new SDK and Game Stack are likely part of Microsoft’s push to make Xbox games and services more accessible across platforms. Also playing a role is Project xCloud, Microsoft’s game streaming service that will launch in beta this year. Microsoft showed off xCloud for the first time during its recent Inside Xbox episode.

Xbox Live is one of the best console gaming networks out there, offering plenty of social tools and pioneering those ever-popular achievements. Now, it seems like Microsoft is gearing up to bring Xbox Live features to Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch.

The news, spotted by Windows Central, comes via the Game Developers Conference (GDC) schedule. The GDC page reveals Microsoft’s plans for a cross-platform development kit that will connect to over two billion devices.

“Get a first look at the SDK to enable game developers to connect players between iOS, Android, and Switch in addition to Xbox and any game in the Microsoft Store on Windows PCs,” reads an excerpt of the page.

The page notes that the new development kit will let players take their “gaming achievement history, their friends list, their clubs, and more with them to almost every screen.” Now, this doesn’t mean Xbox One games will work on your Switch (although Microsoft’s streaming efforts could theoretically make that happen), so don’t hold your breath for Halo 4 on Switch or iPhone.

Solving a cross-platform problem

Microsoft has a long history of cross-platform Xbox Live functionality, starting with initiatives like the much-maligned Games for Windows Live on PC. It also offered Xbox Live achievements on its Windows Phone platforms, but this capability was limited to a handful of games. More recently, Windows Central noted that Minecraft requires users to sign in with their Xbox Live account on Android, iOS, and Switch.

So why does Microsoft think now is the time for a cross-platform Xbox Live push? Well, we’ve seen an explosion in cross-platform gaming in the past year or two, thanks to titles like Fortnite, Minecraft, PUBG, and Rocket League. One potential challenge is a seamless way of communicating in these games across platforms.

Sure, you can play games on Switch with your Xbox-owning friends, but developers have to add their own social features (e.g. parties and voice chat) or leave it out completely. By using Xbox Live, developers theoretically don’t have to spend a ton of resources implementing these capabilities.

An interesting omission on the GDC page is Sony’s PlayStation platform, which already has its own PlayStation Network for communication and other features. Sony has been notoriously cagey about cross-platform play in the first place, finally relenting for several games last year. But allowing Xbox Live functionality on PS4 games seems like an understandable step too far for the firm, so you’ll probably need to use Discord when playing with your PS4-owning buddies.