Fortnite maker Epic Games wants all games to have cross-platform options available to them. Earlier this year, Sony opened up a cross-play beta that allowed PlayStation 4 users to play Fortnite with gamers on other platforms, like PC, mobile, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Now, Epic has even bigger ideas that they'd like to see come into fruition.
Cross-platform play is exactly what it sounds like. It enables a game's players to play with one another regardless of what platform(s) they choose to play said game on. Epic Games made gaming history in September 2018 when it brought together all major current generation platforms (Switch, Xbox One, PS4, iOS, Android, PC, and Mac - sorry, Linux) for the first time through its smash-hit online title Fortnite, convincing even stalwart market leader Sony to buy in. Since then, the free-to-play title has been able to let users across all platforms communicate with and befriend one another through in-game systems, as opposed to platform-specific ones. Epic is now planning to take the tools it's developed over the course of the popular game's development and use them as the basis for the online services it will provide for free to other developers. These online services have been stress-tested by greater than 200 million total players over the course of the game's long beta, as well as against such extreme milestones as 8.3 million concurrent players worldwide.
Epic Games made the unprecedented announcement in a surprise December 12 press release, providing brief descriptions of what services will be on offer and when in a 2019 roadmap. Over the course of Q2 to Q4 2019, Epic promises to deliver cross-platform tools that cover matchmaking, parties, friends lists, achievements/trophies, player profiles, purchases, login, data storage, and cloud saves, as well as a brand-new cross-platform voice chat service. While Epic currently recommends that developers continue to use third-party voice applications like Discord in the interim, Epic's voice solution is slated to function entirely in-game, much like the party system in Fortnite currently allows. These services will be usable by all developers regardless of what engines their games run on and in what store(s) they're sold. Epic also clarifies that these online tools will be "privacy friendly" and adhere to the European Union's GDPR.
The pending release of these free tools marks yet another developer-friendly move announced by Epic in the month of December alone, coming hot off the heels of the unanticipated launch of the Epic Games Store. Most astonishing is the fact that Epic holds that its services will be available for all games regardless of their choices of engine or marketplace, two areas in which the Fortnite developer has direct lines of interest as the longtime creator and distributor of the widely-used Unreal Engine and the owner of PC gaming's newest digital distribution service. In an explanation of its reasoning for engaging in this apparent bout of altruism, Epic cited simply that their "goal is to help game developers succeed."
As much as this huge gesture of good faith points to the validity of Epic Games' stated desire to ensure the success of other developers, Epic does stand to potentially profit from this move in the long-term. By generating positive PR points and further cultivating developer loyalty, Epic can continue to grow its software enterprise while galvanizing the amount of trust that its clientele places in it. After all, if a Unity or Source Engine developer has already come to rely on the Epic Games Store's greater share of revenue (which currently outmatches what Steam can offer) and now upon a bevy of cross-platform tools, why not take a chance on an Unreal Engine license on the next go-around?
Source: Epic Games