Players of generation-defining creation, construction and exploration game Minecraft can now play with each other regardless of the console, computer or phone they're dialing in from – with a few but notable exceptions.

First emerging in 2009, the explosion of enthusiasm surrounding Minecraft saw it become a phenomenon, at first confined to computers but in 2011 spreading to mobile through iOS and Android editions.

From there, games consoles got in on the act with a 2012 release for Xbox 360 and subsequently for PlayStation and Nintendo platforms.

Since midway through 2016, Microsoft – which bought Minecraft studio Mojang in 2014 for US$2.5bil (RM10.49bil) – has been working on ways to unify the various home and portable editions of the game.

A Windows 10 Edition, released in 2015, encouraged computer users to upgrade from previous versions of Microsoft's operating system and enjoy local multiplayer with iOS, Android and Windows Phone players.

That feature's now been expanded to consoles – specifically, the Xbox One – thanks to the arrival of a Sept 20 update called Better Together.

Using Mojang's proprietary Bedrock Engine, editions of the game capable of cross-platform multiplayer will be known as Minecraft while legacy versions will have relevant suffixes attached: the original Java-based computer game is now Minecraft: Java Edition, while the Wii U edition, which is not getting the update, is still Minecraft: Wii U Edition.

One other bonus of the transition is that progress can be logged on one machine and continued from another.

The update's major caveat is that owners of the Xbox One disc edition have to play five or more hours, or purchase a digital add-on, by Jan 30 2018, in order to receive the digital update.

The whole thing is co-ordinated through Microsoft's online network Xbox Live, and while Nintendo is happy to play ball when it comes to the Switch console's upcoming Better Together update, Sony hasn't been so keen with regards to potential PlayStation 4 action.

While Sony's lack of participation appeared to be to do with legal responsibility for minors – “exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after” an executive said in June – a more profound level of objection is thought to rest on the PlayStation 4's popularity relative to other modern home consoles.

Though Microsoft stopped reporting unit sales of its Xbox One in late 2014, the PlayStation 4 is thought to have outsold its nearest competitor by a ratio of at least 2 to 1.

It's in Sony's interest that players migrate to PlayStation in order to play with friends that are already there, rather than plump for another platform and link up with their Minecraft mates on PlayStation all the same. Why would Sony erode its advantage and encourage existing users to sign up for Xbox Live accounts in one fell swoop?

Evidently the appeal remains for Mojang. “We would love to work with Sony to bring players on PlayStation 4 into this ecosystem as well,” explains the Better Together FAQ. — AFP Relaxnews

Minecraft cross-platform console play goes live