Cross-platform play: Do PC gamers want it?

PC gamers have new enemies and/or friends: Xbox 360 gamers. Microsoft's launch of Shadowrun last week heralded the debut of cross-platform gaming, one of the major features introduced in Games for Windows - Live's paid-for service.

Naturally, it would be entirely unfair to judge the future prospects of cross-platform on one game alone, but is cross-platform gaming something PC gamers want? And what do developers reckon?

Tim Edwards, deputy editor on PC Gamer UK believes that cross-platform play, as demonstrated in Shadowrun, "is a dongle, a nice little bullet point on the back of the box."

Debuting with a first-person shooter, a genre notorious for heated opinion about control inputs, was a major risk on Microsoft's part. Edwards says that by featuring cross-platform play in Shadowrun developer FASA has "essentially neutered the advantages of the PC platform," with the "ultra-precision aiming offered by the mouse and keyboard lost with spammy weapons with a wide fire arc."

"If cross platform gaming is going to work then it's the PC and 360 where it'll first break through, as the Xbox is definitely the most PC-like of all consoles. Microsoft of course holds the keys to both platforms and sees cross-platform as a tool for driving both 360 and Vista gaming, so they have a vested interest in making it happen," reckons self-confessed PC gamer as well as our development editor John Houlihan.

Houlihan believes it's easy to sneer at innovation - an ingredient all too often missing in modern gaming, he says - such as cross-platform gaming between Xbox 360 and PC, but at the same time admits that in practice it faces a number of problems.