The Xbox One is technically capable of supporting cross-platform play, but Microsoft is not currently allowing it, according to War Thunder developer Gaijin Entertainment CEO Anton Yudintsev.
"Microsoft is not allowing cross-play completely; which means [War Thunder] cannot be on Xbox One," Yudintsev told GameSpot at GDC last week in San Francisco.
Why would Microsoft block cross-platform play? According to Yudintsev, Microsoft needs to certify game servers as a means to ensure a "good experience" for all players. This isn't possible under the current circumstances, Yudintsev said.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer said previously that cross-platform play between Xbox One and PC "makes sense," teasing that he's "not allowed to leak things," suggesting this feature may actually be in the works. We've reached out to a Microsoft representative for a further comment.
Cross-platform play is vital for a game like War Thunder because the install base of new consoles like the Xbox One and PS4 is too small for players to have an enjoyable experience, Yudintsev said.
The PS4 version of War Thunder, available only in Europe right now, will support cross-play beginning as early as next month, Yudintsev said. The reason this feature has yet to go live comes down to an unspecified updating issue that Yudintsev said Sony engineers are working to fix right now.
As for why Gaijin Entertainment elected to side with Sony instead of Microsoft, Ydintsev said it's because Sony is significantly more accommodating to indie developers, specifically those who make free-to-play games.
"Sony is much more open to indie developers and free-to-play games in general. So Sony has been in the free-to-play market for a few years already, they started on the PlayStation 3," Yudintsev said. "Not only that, but Microsoft has a lot of unspoken limitations like if you want to make a free-to-play game you have to talk to an account manager and there are no set of rules; you need to communicate them; and the rule depends on the [individual account manager]. If he likes your game you get approval, if he doesn't you don't get approval."
"Sony is much more open to indie developers and free-to-play games in general" -- Yudintsev
Yudintsev said one individual Microsoft account manager decides your game's fate. This person is the only who says "This game is good, this game is bad," Yudintsev said.
"I don't think it's a correct assumption that anyone can be the one who can choose which game is good and which is bad because each game is for a specific audience," he said.
Yudintsev said Minecraft is a good example of the faults in Microsoft's indie program. "It's a very fun game, a lot of people play it, and nowadays everyone understands it's a very good game. But it would not be happening [first] on Xbox Live."
"When it was released it was strange...it had very, let's say, specific graphics and not much of the gameplay," Yudintsev said, referencing the game's alpha release. "It suddenly became very popular and after that it appears on Xbox 360 as well. But it could not happen the other way. There's no way, I am pretty sure, that Microsoft would ever approve that game to be on Xbox Live Arcade before it became popular on the PC."
Yudintsev stressed that Microsoft's policies for indie games are beginning to change for the better with the arrival of the ID@Xbox program. But he made clear that Microsoft still has a ways to go to catch up to Sony.
"[Microsoft] has to change and they will change," Yudintsev said. "They key is that they understand the necessesity of change, so they will. We'll see. I hope we will be [on Xbox One] some day as well. I have nothing against the platform itself especially because I'm not one of those guys who worries about which is better [Xbox One or PS4]. I don't care. It's just the hardware. At the end of the day it's only about the quality of the game and the gameplay experience."