A screenshot of "World of Tanks" on the Xbox One. (Courtesy of Wargaming)

Microsoft announced in June that it would support more backwards compatibility for the Xbox 360, so that gamers who bought its newest console, the Xbox One, wouldn't have to abandon all the games they've been playing all these years.

But what about the friends they're leaving behind? One key frustration for console gamers is that even when you and your friends are playing the same game, your equipment may not match up -- making it impossible to play together. That's particularly annoying in the few years after a major console launch, when groups of friends can get split between generations.

This week, Wargaming, the studio behind the free-to-play hit "World of Tanks," a game that lets you skirmish with WWII-era tanks, became the first to allow players of its Xbox 360 game to play with those who've downloaded the game for the Xbox One title. Working with a company called Vivox, players can also talk to each other across platforms -- an essential feature when you're trying to coordinate a battle.

That's a huge deal for gamers, and for Microsoft, because it makes multiplayer gaming that much easier. Players don't have to start over from scratch collecting achievements, restart their progress or create a new account. And for companies, it saves some of the community building they have to do when trying to lure players to their game on a new platform.

The team started testing it out with an open beta two weekends ago, said TJ Wagner, a Chicago-based executive producer on "World of Tanks." After more than 25,000 matches and some additional bug-squashing, the team felt ready to launch officially alongside the release of the Xbox One version of the game.

"We're excited and scared," Wagner said ahead of Tuesday's launch. "No one else has done this, and both us and Microsoft were learning things about crossplay" right up until the Friday ahead of the launch.

"World of Tanks" also has a large and dedicated community of players on the PC, but Wagner said that -- at least for now -- they're keeping the console and PC communities separate.

"It's an option in the future," he said. "But we'll focus on this release and see how that goes before look at what's up for our next opportunity."