EA reveals 'single identity' system for a cross-platform gaming experience

Electronic Arts has just completed a major engineering effort that will allow its games to extend across platforms, from consoles to PCs to smartphones and tablets.

According to VentureBeat, players will have a single identity that works across game platforms, regardless of the hardware maker. That way, EA can offer gaming experiences that follow you from one platform to the next.

This kind of system could be beneficial in a few ways. Players could, for instance, start playing a game on PC, then pick up where they left off on the Xbox 360. In another example, someone who plays a game on an iPhone could find an Android-using friend, communicate in real-time, and start a multiplayer session (assuming the game supported cross-platform play). EA also plans to implement platform-agnostic leaderboards and chat functionality for games.

The idea of a single, cross-platform identity sounds great in theory, but VentureBeat's story doesn't say much about what the system will look like to users. It's unclear, for example, whether players will have to create some kind of EA login that rides on top of other services, such as Xbox Live or iOS GameCenter. Also, the story doesn't get into details on how cross-platform gaming would actually work. Would Microsoft or Sony approve of letting gamers pick up where they left off on a PC? Is their approval even necessary?

EA/VentureBeat

There are other benefits that EA hopes to reap from this system, such as targeted marketing and recommendations based on players' activity. But unless EA can provide lots of tangible benefits to the system, players could resist the company's efforts to track them.

After all, EA is not exactly a beloved company among hardcore gamers. Last year, readers at Consumerist voted EA the worst company in America, in the midst of an outrage over the ending to Mass Effect 3. On Wednesday, EA drew even more ire by saying that it's building microtransactions into all of its games, leading to complaints that players are being nickeled-and-dimed even on $60 titles like Dead Space 3.

Still, there's no denying that cross-platform play has become somewhat of a holy grail for the games industry. Microsoft's Xbox Live service now extends to phones and PCs, and a small number of games are playable on all platforms, such as Skulls of the Shogun. Sony plans to allow the Playstation 4 to stream games to the PlayStation Vita. Valve has plans to bring its Steam PC gaming service into the living room, and Nvidia's Project Shield handheld will let users play PC games all around the house.

EA's in an interesting position because it doesn't control a gaming platform of its own. That's a challenge, but it's also liberating, because the company's not beholden to any particular game console, smartphone or tablet. But we'll need to see a lot more details to know whether the company's single identity plans will take off.

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