The whole cross-play feature between the PC, Mac and PlayStation platforms has been dropped over update timing issues.
On Monday, Valve said that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will launch sometime this summer for the PC, Mac, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Although the studio didn't nail down a specific month, they said the public release will arrive with new and updated maps, new gameplay modes, leaderboards and more. What it won't ship with is the previously-announced cross-play feature.
"The beta has proved we want to update not just the beta, but the game itself post-launch frequently on the PC," Valve's Chet Faliszek revealed to Joystiq. "To do that we need to separate the platforms so one doesn't hamstring the other. So for that, we have removed the idea of cross-platform play -- essentially make all platforms stronger by not mixing them."
The original idea was to allow PC gamers, Mac gamers and PlayStation 3 owners to battle each other online instead of locking the console players strictly to Sony's PlayStation Network. PC and Mac gamers wouldn't have the upper hand because the PlayStation 3 supports both a USB-based keyboard and mouse. The playing field would essentially be balanced on the controller front, at least.
And while Sony's approval system is a bit more lax than Microsoft and its Xbox Live network, the process of getting updates past Sony's guard dogs reportedly makes for a lengthy update rollout, a rollout that apparently can't keep up with the updates provided for the PC and Mac. That said, either the PC and Mac platforms would see reduced if very little updates at all, or Valve would simply sever the cross-play connection. Apparently Valve chose the latter method.
As it stands now, it looks as though Counter-Strike: GO won't have cross-play whatsoever, even between the PC and Mac platforms although it's possible that the feature could be re-implemented later on. Console gamers will be left out of the loop however, playing solo on their respective "closed" networks.
Looking back, the Xbox 360 version was never a factor in the cross-play design, as Valve couldn't distribute updates via Xbox Live whatsoever. This was apparent back in August 2011 when Gabe Newell was still trying to sweet-talk Microsoft into allowing SteamWorks (via Portal 2) on the closed network.
"The main thing is having Microsoft get comfortable with [Steamworks] and let us do it," he told Eurogamer. "Right now, there's a huge amount of updates and free content we've been able to deliver to people who have The Orange Box that we haven't been able to deliver to the Xbox because of the restrictions that have been placed on us on Xbox Live. We'd love to see those relaxed."