Epic Games today announced that it’s going to offer up the underlying software infrastructure and tools used to run its massive, cross-platform hit Fortnite to other game developers for free. Those tools include the ability to sync a player’s profile and in-game purchases across multiple platforms, to provide cross-platform voice communication, and to allow cross-platform partying and matchmaking, among other features.
“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,” reads the announcement. “These services will be free for all developers, and will be open to all engines, all platforms, and all stores. As a developer, you’re free to choose mix-and-match solutions from Epic and others as you wish.”
The move is a significant transition for Fortnite as a business, with Epic now positioning the game as an industry-leading breeding ground for next-generation technologies used to build and maintain large-scale online games across console, PC, and mobile. Fortnite already generates hundreds of millions of dollars per month. The next step for Epic, it seems, is to leverage all of the unprecedented, behind-the-scenes technology that helps it run into a toolset other game developers could come to rely on to build similar games.
Epic already makes the Unreal Engine, a leading software ecosystem for building games of all types. As of last week, it also now runs its own PC game storefront with the Epic Store, which lives inside its PC game launcher. Now, it looks like the online services component it built for Fortnite will become yet another piece of Epic’s expanding game development empire.
In many ways, this is another shot at Valve, which operates the competing and dominant Steam marketplace. As part of its services, Valve offers its Steamworks suite of software tools for matchmaking, cloud storage, and in-game purchase management. Epic’s new tools will be a direct competitor to that, and down the line, they may become yet another reason a developer decides to develop and sell its game through Epic’s ecosystem over Valve’s. (Epic designed its store to give developers a larger cut of revenue in a transparent bid to pull game makers away from Steam.)
While it does seem like bad news for Valve, the services seem useful for the rest of the industry. “We connect developers and players across all platforms, and respect existing platform relationships and player accounts,” reads Epic’s announcement. “For example, Fortnite runs on seven platforms that are fully interoperable; the game requires no login on console, and supports multi-platform login via Facebook, Google, Xbox Live, PSN, and Nintendo accounts, in addition to Epic accounts; and supports Twitch account linking.”
That type of cross-platform technology certainly sounds like it will become an indispensable part of online games in the future, and Epic has the success of Fortnite to prove it.