Technology

How Cross-Platform Functionality is Changing Online Gaming

As technology continues to connect us and our devices, cross-platform gaming is becoming a staple experience for many gamers, thanks to publishers and developers who understand the importance of developing online games, platforms, and other modes of delivery that speak to the needs and desires of modern players across the world. 

An overview of the current market

The online gaming industry is blowing up! According to Statista, the global online gaming market generated around $21.1 billion in 2020, which shows a record 21.9% growth year on year. This figure has been influenced by the pandemic, during which many people turned to games as a form of entertainment during isolation. 

However, no one can doubt the ongoing popularity of this activity, which is expected to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.36% between 2021 and 2025, and a projected market volume of $31.33 billion by 2025, which is pretty impressive!

If we take a look at online casino games specifically, Research and Markets statistics show that the online gambling industry was estimated to be worth $57.11 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $97.69 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 11.31%. Among some of the most popular games are online slots, as well as casino table games, including roulette and blackjack.

From these estimates, we can gather that the latest innovations will be very much a part of this future growth, which includes developments in cross-platform gaming. But before we dive into that and the impact that this will have on the development of software, hardware, and our own behaviors, let’s take it right back to the beginning and look at how the evolution of gaming has gotten us to this point.

The rise of gaming communities

Since the first video games were created, communities of players have formed around particular games. Whether it was groups of college students breaking into labs to play Spacewar! in the 1960s, or Mortal Kombat players gathering at arcades in the early 1990s, there have always been certain games that have naturally drawn people together. But as great as these communities were at the time, they were just a drop in the ocean compared to what was coming. 

On August 6, 1991, the public gained access to a little-known piece of technology called the internet. Although early pioneers including Nikola Tesla had put forward a “world wireless concept” in the early 20th century, and people including Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush were already developing the idea of a searchable storage system in the 1930s and 1940s, the internet as we know it originally developed as a way for researchers to share knowledge. Of course, it didn’t take long for others to realize the potential of this new communication tool. Once that happened, companies and academic organizations all jumped on the world wide web development bandwagon.

As the internet grew, so did the tools that allowed people to connect. From early bulletin board systems to forums, private chat applications, and eventually the social media giants that we have today, people began reaching out to each other across the world in a way that had never been seen, or was possible, before. 

This meant that gamers could begin building communities around their favorite games. Thanks to evolving technologies, even up to the present day, Street Fighter experts from Japan can chat online with their American counterparts about the latest fighting strategies. A British player who’s stuck on a boss in Zelda can ask his favorite Scottish YouTuber for tips. A Sonic fan in Argentina can share a Sonic meme with a fan in Australia. The internet has taken grassroots gaming communities that already existed and made them into thriving, global networks of players. 

Live online streaming services such as Twitch have also played a major role in bringing fans together, with popular streamers building their own communities of players. Amazon noticed Twitch’s powerful role in the gaming industry in 2014 and purchased the company for $970 million. Since then, Twitch has grown immensely, surpassing ESPN’s audience size in 2017. It currently has 140 million unique monthly visitors, with 9.2 million active streamers on the platform.

Gamers face-off online

The internet wasn’t just critical in developing communities outside games; it also connected players within the actual games themselves. PC gamers were the first to experience multiplayer online gaming, but owing to the technological limits of the time, the first games were turn-based affairs, such as battleships, cards, chess, or golf. This all changed when Doom was launched in 1993, becoming the first game ever to feature real-time battles between players online. 

For many years, though, if you wanted to play online games, you had to do it on a computer. PC gamers had the pleasure of battling it out online against friend and foe alike. Whether it was strategy games such as Command & Conquer or StarCraft, fast-paced action games like Quake or Doom, or massive multiplayer online role-playing games (known as “MMORPGs”) such as EverQuest and World of Warcraft, PC players had something console gamers could only dream of.

But even though console gamers may have initially felt left out as they were stuck gaming with a few of their friends on their couches, developers spent years working hard to introduce a solution to make online gaming more accessible. One company (that’s associated with a certain blue hedgehog) was the first to lead the way with a console-based online gaming solution.

Sega, which had originally tried to bring online gaming to fans with its Meganet service in the 1990s, and later with add-ons for the Sega Saturn, decided to give online gaming another go with the Sega Dreamcast in 1998. It was the first console to include multiplayer from the ground up and came with a 56k modem so that players could go online. 

Unfortunately, the console didn’t grab gamers in the way Sega had hoped, and it was considered a commercial failure, even if it was undoubtedly ahead of its time. 

But Sega had laid the groundwork for another company and its first entry into the console space: Microsoft. The first-generation Xbox console introduced the Xbox Live online gaming service, featured the debut game in the legendary Halo franchise, and redefined console gaming forever. 

Since then, online gaming has become a staple part of the console-gaming experience, but there was another online gaming challenge that lay on the horizon.

Breaking down online barriers

As popular as online gaming had become across all platforms, it was a struggle to get console developers to agree to enable cross-platform multiplayer functionality, presumably due to technical and proprietary considerations, even though the first game that supported cross-platform play was released in 2002. This game was the legendary RPG Final Fantasy XI, and it allowed PC and console gamers to play together

There was another big push from Microsoft a few years later when it tried to promote cross-platform play with a game called Shadowrun in 2007. There were a few more experiments with cross-platform gaming between 2007 and 2015, but it was still far from becoming the standard for online gaming.

However, things changed in 2016, when Microsoft enabled cross-play for players of the vehicular soccer video game, Rocket League, allowing them to play with their PC gaming counterparts. The company didn’t stop there: It also invited Nintendo to do the same, with an announcement coming a few months later that the Nintendo Switch version of Rocket League would support cross-platform play. 

Sony was resistant to the idea, and it was only in late 2019, after getting called out by gamers who enjoyed the cross-platform play of Rocket League and Fortnite, that the creator of the mighty PlayStation finally embraced cross-platform online gaming for all games moving forward.   

Since then, we’ve seen mega-titles, including Call of Duty and Need for Speed, as well as other games such as Dauntless, Sea of Thieves, War Thunder, and many others, all jump on the cross-platform bandwagon. Other current titles in this genre that are proving to be very popular include Minecraft, Among Us, Paladins, and Hex. 

After reading about all of these games, it’s clear that the cat’s out of the bag, and many game developers will be looking to follow suit with cross-platform functionality for their future online releases.

A new challenger enters the online gaming arena: mobile

Traditionally, there were two main online gaming platforms: consoles and PCs, each with their die-hard and more casual player bases. But it’s only more recently that a third platform has seriously started to muscle in on these two titans. 

That third platform? Mobile gaming devices.

Yes, handheld consoles have been around for a while with Nintendo Gameboy, Nintendo DS, and PlayStation Vita. But up until the late 2000s, mobile gaming was always a very small industry compared to PC and console gaming. That all changed in 2007 with the release of the world’s very first smartphone: the iPhone.

Mobile phones get smart

Prior to the release of the iPhone, mobile phones weren’t really considered serious gaming devices. In the early days, you could play games like Snake, and sure, developers came up with mobile versions of their most popular games, but these games were poor imitations of the experiences available on console and PC. At the time, mobile phones simply didn’t have the hardware to create titles that could really hook hardcore gamers. 

But when the iPhone arrived in 2007, it changed the way people thought about mobile phones. It also switched up how game developers thought about mobile games. The earliest releases may have been fairly simple puzzle games such as Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and the infamous Flappy Bird (which was banned after its creator felt that it had become too addictive,) but there was no doubt that touchscreens opened up a whole new world of gaming possibilities. 

Since then, the number of game genres available to play on your smartphone has exploded. Players can now enjoy role-playing titles, including Final Fantasy and Neverwinter Nights, first-person shooters such as Call of Duty, Fortnite, and PUBG, strategy games like Clash of Clans, and even unique augmented reality games such as Pokémon GO!

Single-player or multiplayer, the smartphone gaming industry has evolved to offer experiences that appeal to people who would never dream of owning a console, as well as those who play on console and PC. What’s more, because you can play on the go, you’re no longer limited as to where and when you can play.

To give a commercial insight into this growing market, according to Statista, mobile gaming revenues are expected to reach $109.66 billion in 2021, with a CAGR of 10.02%, which, interestingly, is on a par with the projected growth rate for online gambling that we discussed at the beginning of this article. Further to this, user penetration, or the percentage of the population who play mobile games, is expected to hit 28.5% by 2025. 

Even though mobile gaming’s roots may be in more humble gaming experiences, there’s no doubt that it’s here to stay and will soon join its bigger brethren in the cross-play arena. Moving forward, mobile gaming probably won’t be seen as a challenger in the near future but an integral part of the industry, and it will be interesting to see how this sector continues to grow. 

Mobile devices and online casinos – a match made in heaven

As synonymous as online casino gaming is with mobile devices, this hasn’t always been the case. Yes, mobile phones existed in the early 2000s, and some of them supported online casino games, but these playing experiences were slow and clunky and – dare we say – prehistoric!

The first popular online casinos were limited to web- or download-based platforms primarily accessible through a desktop or laptop PC. This was especially true for web-based casinos since they used a technology called Flash, which worked on computers but was not officially supported by the first iPhone or any smartphones that came out soon after its release. 

Even though the early smartphones didn’t support – or had limited support for – Flash, online casino developers saw the potential these new devices offered and got to work adapting them to a new online programming language that could meet all their needs: HTML5. 

But hold on a minute. As critical as HTML5 was, we want to discuss one more piece of hardware before we get into it. Again it was Apple that gave us something we didn’t even know we wanted: the iPad!

Not only does Apple take the credit for being the developer of the first smartphone, but it also introduced the world to the first modern tablet. People had come up with similar ideas before, but no company had brought it to life in the way Apple had.

The first iPad was unveiled in January 2010 and was released a few months later, in April. This 10-inch device was essentially a portable touchscreen that worked using the iOS operating system. This was critical, as it meant that any piece of software that worked on the iPhone also worked on the iPad. Revolutionary, indeed!

Much like the iPhone before it, the iPad also set the standard for tablets. Google didn’t want to be left out of this new market either and announced that it, too, would be making updates to Android to support tablet devices moving forward. Again, this allowed other major device manufacturers to develop their own tablets using their own hardware and Google’s software.

Speaking of software…

Goodbye Flash, hello HTML5

When HTML5 was released in 2008, it was designed for the future, and this meant a focus on mobile and traditional computing devices. If you coded something in HTML5, it was far easier to get it to work on a wide range of devices. This was great for developers because they could save on costs for making different websites, but it also meant that a single site could work on any device with a browser that supported HTML5. 

For online casinos, this meant that people playing on their phones could seamlessly switch over to their computers and play there, and vice versa.

But what if you played through an app? Did this mean you couldn’t play with people who used a browser-based version? 

Not at all. One could argue that the online casino industry was the first gaming industry to understand the importance of cross-platform gaming and committed millions of dollars to make sure it worked.

What cross-platform gaming means for online casinos

Long before Rocket League and Fortnite allowed gamers to play together on PCs, PlayStations, Switches, or Xboxes, the casino industry made sure that players could play real casino games with or against other players on their PCs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Even console players could join in the fun as long as their browser supported HTML5. 

These days, no matter where you are or what device you have, you can hop onto your favorite site and do what so many of us love to do: play casino games!

Enjoy the cross-platform experience and play the best casino games at Borgata Online

No matter whether you own an iPhone or an Android, a PC or a tablet, you can play at Borgata Online, as all of our casino games are mobile-optimized and will adjust to your screen. We’d recommend using a device with high specs, though, for the best-possible HD visual experience.  

For example, at our site, you can enjoy casino table games like baccarat and roulette, which have been around for centuries and are just as fun online as they are in real life. If you’re interested in trying new casino games, you can also play exciting slots, including regular releases from the most reputable developers.

For those who’d rather bet on card games such as poker, blackjack, or a variety of sports, you’ll find there are many game variants, sports teams, and events to discover on our site. If you prefer a live casino experience, be sure to give our live dealer tables a try too.

If you’d like to play casino games with us, register at Borgata Online!