Microsoft appears to have plans for expanding its Xbox Live gaming platform to Android, iOS, and the Nintendo Switch, with the help of a new Xbox Development Kit (XDK) which seems to have been scheduled for unveiling during the upcoming 2019 Game Developer Conference in March. The news initially broke through the schedule webpage of GDC and has since been removed for unknown reasons, but the information was preserved and passed along by the Microsoft-oriented tech blog Windows Central.
In short, the initial event description revealed that Xbox Live is about to get much bigger, expanding its reach to over 2 billion devices - including mobile phones and the Nintendo Switch - through the release of a new cross-platform XDK. It will enable players to connect across all platforms including the existing Microsoft Store for PC users and the Xbox consoles.
Meanwhile, the “Takeaway” section of the news mentioned that Xbox Live players will be able to access their friends list, achievements, clubs, and more on nearly every type of device. In part, this is not something entirely new as the My Xbox Live application for Android OS, available on the Play Store, gives smartphone users the ability to access their Xbox Live profile and friends list on the go. The app was released in 2012 and was updated late last week adding new features including the ability to save and share game captures with friends.
However, the new XDK seems to aim and offer new cross-platform capabilities to more games on the three additional platforms beyond PC and Xbox. It will give game developers new tools to work with in order to include Xbox Live features into their games across all five platforms, similar to how Minecraft players on PC and Xbox can play together with Android smartphone users, or log in with their account on different devices. In contrast, the My Xbox Live application merely offers access to some of the user’s account features on smartphones, but nothing more.
Although the GDC schedule page for Microsoft’s event no longer contains the detailed information about the new XDK, it still invites attendees to “get a first look at the SDK” designed to offer developers new tools to “connect players across platforms.” The reason as to why the original information was removed is unknown, so it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will be able to showcase the XDK during the conference. GDC will take place between the March 18th and 23rd, and given these events, the highlight of Microsoft’s presentation might not be set in stone just yet.
With mobile devices becoming more powerful every year and various OEMs now exploring the mobile gaming scene with new gaming smartphones, it would be appropriate and could prove very profitable for Microsoft to expand its gaming platform to mobile. This could lead to higher quality titles being released for the mobile market which, over the past few years, has arguably stagnated or focused too much on rehashing or cloning the same successful titles over and over under a different skin. There are, of course, exceptions, including classic PC titles being re-released to Android, and the recent launch of games including PUBG and Fortnite for Android, even though the former does not officially support cross-play.