Fortnite’s cross-play, cross-progression and cross-buy: is this SMITE’s future?

This week, Epic Games announced cross-play, cross-progression and cross-buy capabilities for their mega-hit battle royale game, Fortnite. The features will be available between PS4, PC, Mac and a newly announced mobile version of Fortnite Battle Royale. Separately, players can enjoy the cross-capabilities between Xbox One, PC, Mac and the mobile versions (Sony and Microsoft can’t play nice, so it’s two separate ecosystems).

With cross-play hitting the mainstream thanks to games like Rocket League and Fortnite, it’s hard not to wonder: is this the future of SMITE?

Fortnite Battle Royale
Fortnite: now on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac and soon mobile

Before we dive into the possible skill differential between PC and console SMITE players — that Reddit would have you believe is bigger than the Grand Canyon — let’s examine the positives (and, before you say it, yes, cross-play in Fortnite is opt-in and can be disabled).

First of all, the positive press Epic and Fortnite have gotten from this announcement is massive. Players are ecstatic they can jump into games with friends on so many platforms and are even more delighted their purchases and progress will be there whether they’re hunkered down at their PC for an all-night session or are playing a casual mobile round of Fortnite on the go. Players are always harping on Hi-Rez about more SMITE advertising, and a cross-play or cross-progression announcement would receive huge coverage.

Next, you’ve got SMITE’s player base problem, which has been an issue for years. Queuing ranked or less-popular modes like Siege at odd-hours will give you a glimpse of the seedy underbelly of matchmaking. But if you throw another platform into the mix, you can effectively double the player base.

But what about player skill, you might say? Skill levels are not as different as you might imagine in a third-person games, which could be why Epic has gone ahead with their decision. In 2017, Gears of War 4 developer The Coalition enabled cross-play between PC and Xbox One. When testing the feature in open betas before taking the plunge to enable cross-play 24/7, The Coalition found “Windows 10 and Xbox players had closely-matched results when comparing Average KD, Score and Kills per match based on skill ratings.” This was based off an experiment in which 90% of matches included both PC and console players. Of course, SMITE is its own beast, but it shows the merging of two platforms may not shake things up as much as you’d think, even in a shooter like Gears of War.

Gears of War 4 Crossplay
The Coalition enabled Xbox One-PC crossplay for Gears of War 4 in 2017

If you play on PC like I do, you already know the platform already has its share of talented and not-so-talented players. If you play on Xbox One or PS4, you know it’s much the same. Bad players are everywhere, and so are good players. I truly believe for casual matchmaking — note that I did not say ranked or competitive — cross-play between PC and console would not affect anyone’s SMITE experience for the worse. And, of course, all Hi-Rez has to do is make cross-play opt-in to quiet those opposed to it.

Then we come to the cross-progression and cross-buy. These are both features for which the SMITE community has begged for years that nobody needs convincing about. Whether a player is switching from PC to console or vice versa, there are players posting on Reddit or the official SMITE forums every day begging Hi-Rez to let them have their purchases and account level transferred. Or wouldn’t it be nice to jump into a casual game of Assault with your console friends and know the FP and worshipers you earn will still apply on PC?

SMITE players used to assume that Microsoft and Sony didn’t want purchases transferring because it meant less money spent on their storefronts and therefore less money in both companies’ pockets. But with the Fortnite announcement, it seems like this may no longer be the case, or more likely that the right deal can always be negotiated.

And if there is no opposition from Microsoft and Sony, cross-features between PC and console may be the future. Players are loving this new direction, and developers and console companies are enjoying basking in the good publicity. If cross-play is where the gaming industry is headed, now is the time for Hi-Rez to get board with the idea before it is demanded of them.

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