Epic Games will share the technology that enables cross-platform play in Fortnite. In a post on the Unreal Engine website the company said, in 2019, it will be launching “a large set of cross-platform game services originally built for Fortnite, and battle-tested with 200,000,000 players across 7 platforms.” All developers will be able to utilize this technology for free, and it will be open to all engines, platforms, and stores.
“Successfully launching and operating a live, online game requires a suite of services that go far beyond the functionality of a traditional game engine,” it said in the post. “These services are expensive to build, test and harden in real-world conditions, but once operational, are relatively inexpensive to scale to more games and more users. At Epic, our goal is to help game developers succeed … As a developer, you’re free to choose mix-and-match solutions from Epic and others as you wish.”
The rollout will begin with a C software development kit that contains Epic’s online services, complete with integration for Unreal Engine–the company’s own engine, which is available to license–and Unity, another popular game development engine. From there, Epic plans to expand the feature set, making the following available to developers:
- Cross-Platform Login, Friends, Presence, Profile, and Entitlements: Coming Q2-Q3 2019 to PC, other platforms throughout 2019 — Provides the core functionality for persistently recognizing players across multiple sessions and devices; identifying friends; and managing free and paid item entitlements. This will support all seven major platforms (PC, Mac, iOS, Android, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch) to the full extent each platform allows per-title.
- PC/Mac Overlay API: Coming Q3 2019 — Provides a user interface for login, friends, and other features in a game-agnostic, engine-agnostic way.
- Cross-Platform Voice Comms: Coming Q3 2019 to all platforms — Epic is building a new in-game voice communications service supporting all platforms, all stores, and all engines, which will be available for free. (For developers needing an immediately-available voice solution, check out Discord, Vivox, TeamSpeak, Ventrilo, and Mumble.)
- Cross-Platform Parties and Matchmaking: Coming Q3-4 2019 to all platforms
- Cross-Platform Data Storage, Cloud-Saved Games: Coming Q2 2019
- Cross-Platform Achievements and Trophies: Coming Q3 2019
As noted by Epic, its services operate using Amazon Web Services data centers. Fortnite is one of the few games that allows players across PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices come together. Most importantly, it supports multi-platform logins, making it a relatively painless experience to hop between platforms.
The fact that Epic is making these services available to developers at large is a big step forward for cross-play; however, it’s one piece of a complicated puzzle. Platform holders Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo need to also facilitate cross-platform services. While Microsoft, with Xbox One and PC, has been very vocal about allowing player bases to unite for some time now, Sony has only just begun experimenting.
After much resistance, in September, PlayStation said it had “identified a path towards supporting cross-platform features for select third-party content.” Currently, Fortnite is the only game that allows cross-platform play, and it is in a beta phase.
“We recognize that PS4 players have been eagerly awaiting an update, and we appreciate the community’s continued patience as we have navigated through this issue to find a solution,” president of Sony Interactive Entertainment John Kodera said at the time. “We see the beta as an opportunity to conduct thorough testing that ensures cross-platform play is best on PlayStation, while being mindful about the user experience from both a technical and social perspective.
“Today, the communities around some games have evolved to the point where cross-platform experiences add significant value to players. In recognition of this, we have completed a thorough analysis of the business mechanics required to ensure that the PlayStation experience for our users remains intact today, and in the future, as we look to open up the platform.”
Sony has said it is “in the planning process across the organization to support [cross-play]” more widely. Rocket League is another game that cross-play is highly sought after for, and plans to introduce it are expected to be revealed in 2019, provided Sony gives the go ahead.
“The good news is that with Sony’s recent announcements regarding full cross-platform functionality, we can now make additional changes to prepare RocketID for ALL platforms should we receive permission to do so,” said developer Psyonix. “We’re working incredibly hard to ensure that it’s as intuitive, stable, and polished as possible, before releasing it to the world.”
The response from other developers, publishers, and platform holders to Sony’s change in cross-platform policy has been positive, with Microsoft showing their approval through the Xbox Twitter account.
Epic Games has been made some big moves lately. In addition to this, it also launched its own store which, in numerous ways, challenges Valve’s Steam service. It’s currently available for PC and Mac, and is expected to come to Android in 2019. For developers, launching on the Epic Store is an enticing prospect as they’ll earn 88% of their revenue. There are no tiers to the profit-sharing, just an 88/12 split between developers and Epic for listing on their marketplace. Steam, meanwhile, currently takes 20-30% of revenue based on a tiered earning structure. You can find out more about what the Epic Store offers here.