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Once thought to be the shortener of long queue times, and the preventer of dying game lobbies, crossplay has been heralded as the saviour of multiplayer games, especially those with particularly large lobby sizes like battle royales. And yet, in the last couple of years particularly, crossplay has become a poison chalice, with cheaters becoming a huge problem for regular players. The outcry from console players has become harder and harder to ignore, with calls for options to disable crossplay in multiplayer games becoming louder. 

The Problem At Hand

The problem of cheaters on PC is growing. With the integration of console players, the open platform of PC games means that hackers can access a much larger variety of players to mess with. The popularity of PC gaming is also huge, much much bigger than it used to be, with almost all major games and console exclusives releasing on PC. Naturally, this means that more and more hackers become prevalent. Games such as Call of Duty: Warzone have had huge issues with cheaters, with popular streamers boycotting the games until the problem is fixed, and cheaters banned. This problem seems like an easy fix, just update the anticheat and ban the hackers right? Well, it’s really not that easy.

The Difficulty Of Anticheat

As anticheat becomes a requirement for multiplayer games, especially those that employ crossplay, many expect these systems to be strong enough to hold in the face of cheaters. However, the problem is that as the anticheat becomes more advanced, so do the hackers. As we’ve seen recently with Warzone’s new ricochet anticheat feature, devs have to come up with increasingly creative ways to oust these cheaters. IP address bans have also become more popular, with simple system bans not being strong enough in the face of hackers being able to build their own PCs, and modifications being enough to break through these bans. Activision aren’t exactly helping their own cause at the moment by publicly posting and showing ban hammers being dropped and cheaters struggling to play against their new anticheat systems. This only provokes the community to try harder to best their systems. 

This is why crossplay has become a poison chalice in the face of developers. While it does bring a huge volume of players from every platform, the difficulty is that when PC players are involved, so are cheaters. Anticheat isn’t even the only problem that lies at the feet of game devs trying to implement crossplay, that award lies with the skill gap that sits between console and pc players.

The Issue Of Skill

As every console gamer can attest to, the reality of playing with gamers on keyboard and mouse is often one that leads to pain and death. While keyboard and mouse is harder to learn and less accessible and approachable, it leads to highly skilled players, as twitch reflexes are much easier to produce accurately on keyboard and mouse. Admittedly this does lead into the “get good” phrase, but it is a valid point. Ultimately though, I do see the skill gap as one that is leading to games having a higher skill ceiling, which is why skill based matchmaking and MMR are important. Games having a higher skill ceiling isn’t inherently a bad thing, as long as skill based matchmaking is appropriately used. And when I say skill based matchmaking, I’m not talking about filling games with lifeless bots, as both Fortnite and Battlefield 2042 have, but about a simple ranking system, being either invisible or a dedicated mode. I think that a high skill ceiling with a lower entry bar is the ideal place for a multiplayer game to fall into. This is the positive that PC players bring, a manageable level of high skill and a much increased player base for games to thrive on. We also have the ability to play with friends on all other platforms, but then we have the question of a PC-Console split.

The PC – Console Split

If we split PC and console players, and I don’t mean include an option to split, I mean a mandatory split of two player bases, one dedicated to players on PC, and one for console. If this were to happen, it would run the risk of destroying many games’ healthy player bases. The advantage of PC is that old games are much more popular there than on consoles, as the number of enthusiasts tends to be much higher on PC. There would also be a number of complaints from console and PC players unable to play with their friends. I believe that the solution to this problem is for every developer to include an option for console only crossplay. I think that this option should be disabled by default, but that it should be kept as an option for console players that are experiencing repeated instances of cheating. This would keep the option for console players to play with their friends but remove the possibility for cheating to overwhelm the console player base.

The Solution

The solution to this complex issue is equally difficult. I think that devs should include an option to restrict crossplay to consoles only. I also think that devs should include an option to play with friends on PC, but this would mean to stay strictly in the PC and console crossplay pool. If devs impose a console only crossplay option, then it should be kept as such, as if console players could bring their PC player friends over, then it allows for cheaters to be brought over. As an addition to this, I think that developers should only ship versions of their games, be it betas or full releases, with anticheat active. As we saw with the Call Of Duty: Vanguard beta release, it was rife with cheaters as Activision hadn’t enabled their anticheat for the beta. This made the anticheat easier to bypass by the time it was finally enabled. 

I think that we’ll see how the developers’ war with cheaters plays out, but in the meantime, can we not at least enable an option to disable crossplay? It seems long overdue at this point.

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