Why Xbox Child Accounts Don’t Have Cross-play

Why Xbox Child Accounts Don’t Have Cross-play
Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

A little while ago, a reader asked me a question. They were trying to play Fortnite with their child, who was playing on Xbox. But they kept running into a weird issue: they couldn’t play across systems. And as it turns out, it’s actually a common problem.

The problem lies with child accounts on Xbox One, which don’t have cross-play enabled. A standard account, or parent account, on Microsoft’s platform can enjoy cross-play with the Switch, PC, mobiles or whatever happens to be enabled for that particular game.

But child accounts can’t, as many Xbox-owning parents have undoubtedly discovered this year. I asked Microsoft’s local team what the situation was, and they helpfully replied the importance of parental controls and “family safety”.

“We value parental controls and have invested heavily to ensure that parents have access to a robust set of tools to manage content and community interactions on Xbox Live,” a Microsoft spokesperson said over email.

Any Xbox Live-enabled game has access to those tools regardless of the device that a gamer is playing on. As cross network play and communication are coming to more and more titles between Xbox Live and other platforms, we’re evaluating ways we can evolve our parental controls to allow for play, communication and consistency across networks without compromising family safety.

It’s an issue that’s been ongoing for a good chunk of the year, and Fornite‘s popularity has only heightened focus on the issue. And while I can understand Microsoft’s conservative stance, it’s also not an unreasonable request for a parent to say: hey, why isn’t this an option I can toggle? The point of child accounts is to give parents more control over the ecosystem in which their kid plays games.

Microsoft didn’t note any timeframe as to when child accounts might have cross-play enabled. And over a month ago, in response to an irate user, a Microsoft representative recommended on Reddit that the parent plays on their primary Xbox account, while the child plays via PC:

So if you’re looking for a fix, I wouldn’t wait. Either decide whether you’re comfortable creating another non-child account for your kid to control — and maybe being a little more hands-on to enforce time limits and such.