A week after opening its own digital storefront with a generous revenue share model clearly intended to compete with Steam, today Fortnite creator Epic Games announced plans to support cross-platform multiplayer across all games by making Fortnite's cross-platform services free to all developers.
"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," Epic said. To streamline this process and make cross-platform play more accessible for other studios and games, Epic says that "throughout 2019, we’ll be launching a large set of cross-platform game services originally built for Fortnite, and battle-tested with 200,000,000 players across seven platforms."
Epic says these services will be free for all developers and will not be limited to games made using its Unreal Engine or those sold via its new Epic Game Store. Developers will be "free to choose mix-and-match solutions from Epic and others," the announcement reads.
This cross-platform plan will roll out over the course of 2019, with the core systems scheduled to arrive around the middle of the year. Other planned features include cross-platform voice chat, matchmaking, cloud and data storage, and synced achievements and trophies. Epic said these services will be driven primarily by Amazon-run web services, and that more details will be released in the coming months.
We don't know all the technical or legal details just yet, but at first blush this program sounds like very good news for game developers. It could also be great news for players: it's about time cross-platform play became the norm, and Epic's program could speed up the growth of cross-platform multiplayer considerably. Games like Rocket League and Fortnite have proven how nice it is to be able to play with friends across different platforms, and games like Destiny 2 have proven how annoying it is when you can't. I would love to see cross-platform support for, say, Borderlands 3.
Relatedly, here's how to enable cross-platform Fortnite matches.