Xbox and PS4 players can finally go head to head in Need for Speed

Playing games with your friends in other ecosystems is slowly but surely getting easier.

EA announced today that Need for Speed Heat will be the company’s first game to support cross-platform online gaming. Beginning June 9, players on PC, PS4, and Xbox One will all be able to race each other in the game’s multiplayer mode — so all players “can jump into Palm City together as one, united community.”

Once tomorrow’s update has successfully been installed, players will be prompted to update their settings to allow for cross-platform play. If you choose not to do so right now, the setting can also be toggled at a later point. Both players need to opt in to show up on each other’s Friends tab.

The Criterion team responsible for the game says this will be the last update for Need for Speed Heat because it’s getting ready to work on the next game in the series. It’s a substantial update that illustrates a market shift toward cross-platform gaming.

Subscription racing — Besides the ability to race with friends on other platforms, the big news of today’s announcement is that Need for Speed Heat will be added to EA Access, the company’s subscription service, on June 16. EA Access is $4.99 per month (or $29.99 per year) and offers unlimited play time in games like FIFA20, Star Wars Battlefront II, and Sims 4, as well as a 10 percent discount on all other digital EA purchases.

Need for Speed Heat will also be added to Origin’s Basic Vault subscription program, which includes access to many similar games as EA Access.

A cross-platform future — Gone are the days when you and your friends all had to own the same game console to compete online... okay, well somewhat. Plenty of games still don’t offer cross-platform play.

But that’s changing. We’re seeing a subtle shift in the industry to allow for us to be competitive with our friends that don’t own the same gaming systems we do. Hugely popular games like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare all now have baked-in support for cross-platform multiplayer.

Need for Speed might not be the industry smash it once was, but there are still plenty of people racing away in the latest game. EA’s making a statement by adding cross-platform support to such an influential series.

Online gaming is more popular than ever, thanks to COVID-19 — maybe that will push other companies to follow EA’s example, especially as the release of next-gen consoles is just around the corner.