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Microsoft's "PlayFab Party" service will offer cross-platform chat and matchmaking features to devs. Being demoed on Nintendo Switch hardware at GDC.

Cerium

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Oct 23, 2017
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So I swung by the Microsoft booth at GDC today. There, nestled among Xbox Ones and various tablets, I spotted something that I wasn't expecting to see: Nintendo Switch hardware.



When I asked the representatives what this was all about, I was surprised to learn that it's part of a suite of features called PlayFab Party that Microsoft announced last week with zero fanfare. They explained to me that this was a service they were hoping to sell to developers to be incorporated into the games themselves. This was initially developed as a voice-to-text accessibility feature for Xbox, but they later expanded the scope to make cross-platform a big part of it. The package will include leaderboards, matchmaking, party, and server/lobby support.

The voice-to-text feature was available to test and even on the noisy show floor it worked pretty well.

I was told that the way accounts are handled is that you will have a PlayFab ID which you will be prompted to tie to an account(s) from other platforms. At launch only Xbox Live accounts can be linked, but they specifically mentioned that Steam support was in the works along with possibly others. It is not part of Xbox Live and Xbox Live is not intended to be a requirement.



PlayFab Party will offer SDKs for Xbox, Windows, Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch. I asked about the Switch compatibility and was told that when Microsoft pitched it to them, Nintendo was extremely enthusiastic and very supportive. Microsoft was "super happy" with the negotiations.

When I asked about possible PlayStation compatibility, I was told that Microsoft wants it on PlayStation but that those talks are "further behind." They cited inter-company politics as the reason for the holdup.

Just because I promised I'd mention him, shout out to cvxfreak😉
 
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FiXalaS

Member
Oct 27, 2017
5,870
Kuwait.
nice name

Nice to see that Nintendo was very supportive though, Switch Era Nintendo are great

Hopefully party and cross-platform chat are also on Switch. glad they're bringing these network features along too
 

MELLO

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,671
That is good, I hope it comes through. Kind of dumb some people dont want XBL on Switch “because Nintendo needs to do it”
 

Dant21

Member
Apr 24, 2018
506
Really awesome to see this. Cross-platform parties of any kind are a real innovation and great to see since Discord on Switch didn’t pan out. Hope to use this for Minecraft ( and maybe Halo?) in the future.

On the other hand, we now live in a world where Microsoft will implement voice chat on the Switch before Nintendo does. Even a year ago, I don’t think anyone would believe you if they had been told that.
 

IIFloodyII

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Oct 26, 2017
11,479
Cross-platform parties would be really great. I really hate using game chat in cross-play games.
 

Revolsin

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Oct 27, 2017
4,373
Ummm.. This seems really big after all the hundred complaints about voice chat and whatnot. Am I missing why this is getting such a low tier reaction?
 

Cuburger

Member
Oct 28, 2017
5,433
Really awesome to see this. Cross-platform parties of any kind are a real innovation and great to see since Discord on Switch didn’t pan out. Hope to use this for Minecraft ( and maybe Halo?) in the future.

On the other hand, we now live in a world where Microsoft will implement voice chat on the Switch before Nintendo does. Even a year ago, I don’t think anyone would believe you if they had been told that.
Vivox has also worked with Epic to put crossplatform voice chat on Fortnite and have also done the same with Smite and Paladins.

Seems like Nintendo is for enabling 3rd parties to do the work, even Microsoft, but probably more on a game by game basis than necessarily a system-wide solution. The point is that Nintendo doesn't seem to be forcing developers into their solution for voice chat, but they also aren't going to be developing the tools themselves to implement chat options either. But if Microsoft is aiming to enable party chat on the Switch, that would be pretty huge.
 

Deleted member 43077

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May 9, 2018
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Imagine jumping into a party with friends when you are on Xbox, someone is on PC and another is on Switch. No public voice channels and seemless as if you were all on the same console using the native party app.
 

gofreak

Member
Oct 26, 2017
3,047
PlayFab has been around a while and has always been platform agnostic. It’s a per-game piece of middleware, for in-game MP features etc. not a universal or system level platform... that’s probably why there’s not so much fanfare.
 

Subxero

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Oct 25, 2017
217
United States
Tying different platforms together seems cool. Nintendo needs all the help they can get for their online service.

They should have called this "Live Anywhere"
 

plié

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Jan 10, 2019
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Not really surprised, since Sony and Nintendo have become buddies, there's that one asshole company sulking still in the corner though.... How to get Sony to join the party.
 

ShadowFox08

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Nov 25, 2017
2,194
It's a sad generation when Nintendo has to rely on collaborating with a rival company just to get the most basic online features down--in this case voice chat and texting. Like how the hell did Nintendo go back from Wii u? There was only improvements, but they managed to go back.
 

Startropper

Member
Oct 25, 2017
852
I think it will get the reaction it deserves when games launch with it and we see how it works. Do we know of any games that will (or do) use it?
Hmmm I could see a situation where MS pays devs to add it to their multiplat games. Then all MS first and second party games.

The idea being getting them used to using MS services, which could act as a trickling effect for the indistry.
 

Windu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,678
Yeah saw this last week. They announced some kind of dev tool bundle or whatever called Microsoft GameStack. Which playfab services are a part of.

https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/games

They want to get their dev tools everywhere so its not surprising but its nice to see other companies embracing it, more competition in that space is only a good thing.

edit: wonder if this new playfab party system would just be adopted by Nintendo on the backend to improve only their own stuff or they would allow other branded stuff like Live to sit on top of playfab services. aka multiple chat services on their platform. I assume it would all be standardized and go through Nintendo on switch.
 
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justiceiro

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Oct 30, 2017
4,251
So you get to voice chat directly to the console with a free Microsoft service but not with a paid Nintendo service. Nintendo value = best value.
 

DrROBschiz

Member
Oct 25, 2017
9,916
I am loving this idea of having MS software compatible on the switch

Having a useful built in chat and party system would be a goddamn gamechanger
 
Oct 27, 2017
15,495
That is good, I hope it comes through. Kind of dumb some people dont want XBL on Switch “because Nintendo needs to do it”
I don't think it's dumb to say "Nintendo needs to do it". It's not one or the other. If XBL comes to the Switch, great, but Nintendo REALLY needs to get their own shit together too
 

SMD

Member
Oct 28, 2017
4,542
It's a sad generation when Nintendo has to rely on collaborating with a rival company just to get the most basic online features down--in this case voice chat and texting. Like how the hell did Nintendo go back from Wii u? There was only improvements, but they managed to go back.
Not at all, why duplicate effort and cost when there's a solution ready to implement and it brings parity across platforms? If anything, there should be more industry standards in the future as well as bringing the walls down between ecosystems.
 

Windu

Member
Oct 25, 2017
5,678
This was a company bought by MS, I am sure name will change in future or it will just be part of XBL.
looks like they are already going with sticking with the Playfab branding for the dev tool side by looking at the below video. Xbox Live I guess is more technically their branding for their gaming social community.

 

Deleted member 18742

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Oct 27, 2017
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Was there a reason for Microsoft to try and reinvent the wheel? Discord exists and it works really well.

They could have funded them to try and get it working on all consoles / Xbox & Swich
 
OP
OP
Cerium

Cerium

General Manager
Administrator
Oct 23, 2017
1,241
Was there a reason for Microsoft to try and reinvent the wheel? Discord exists and it works really well.

They could have funded them to try and get it working on all consoles / Xbox & Swich
Discord is a separate application that would need to run simultaneously with the games.

PlayFab Party is meant to be incorporated directly into the games themselves.
 

Eoin

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,856
Voice chat, text chat, speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and transcription/closed captioning. And yeah all of that will work on Switch.
Sounds a lot like one of the features that's in preview on Skype for Business. They have (near) real-time translation working on that as well, so perhaps that's something they'll roll into PlayFab at some point too.
 

datschge

Member
Oct 25, 2017
400
Was there a reason for Microsoft to try and reinvent the wheel?
Looks like PlayFab was built internally at Rare specifically for Sea of Thieves and to make use of Azure and was opened up for other parties only afterwards. Since Microsoft is (financially) primarily a Cloud first company nowadays having an easily usable game matching and communication service making use of Azure is good business for them.