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- “Fortnite” is one of very few games that can be played across competing platforms – players on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android all play together.
- The company behind “Fortnite,” Epic Games, is making a major move to bring that functionality to other games.
- By pioneering that functionality with “Fortnite,” Epic has already tested it with the world’s largest game.
If you bought this year’s “Call of Duty” game on Xbox One, and your friend bought it on PlayStation 4, you can’t play together.
It’s the same game running on very similar hardware, yet you’re unable to play together. Why? Business, of course, is the unfortunate answer.
Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are competitors, and each runs its own paid online service. Those services don’t work with each other, and thus you’re unable to play games across the two competing platforms.
But things began changing earlier this year, and it’s all because of “Fortnite.”
“Fortnite” is one of very few games that you can play with friends across every platform it’s on – and that’s a lot of platforms.
Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android all run “Fortnite,” and all seven versions of the game work together. Players on iPhone can play with players on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch and every other combination of those platforms that you can imagine.
That’s a major accomplishment, and it’s largely due to two major things that happened in the last two years:
- “Fortnite” launched its Battle Royale mode in September 2017, and subsequently went on to become the most popular game in the world.
- Microsoft made a major push with its own huge game, “Minecraft,” to unite players across all platforms. Nintendo, unbelievably, joined that push.
Those two things combined put a ton of pressure on Sony. A large enough portion of Sony’s 80-million-plus base of PlayStation 4 owners complained, and Sony looked like the bad guy for not allowing PS4 owners to play games with everyone else.
In September, after months of bad press, Sony relented and allowed “Fortnite” players on PlayStation 4 to play with everyone else. It was the first cross-platform game in an ongoing effort to open the doors, Sony said at the time – a fundamental shift in the entire game industry.
Now, just a few months later, “Fortnite” maker Epic Games is kicking open the doors with a massive new initiative aimed at making cross-platform play a reality sooner than later.
“Throughout 2019, we’ll be launching a large set of cross-platform game services originally built for ‘Fortnite’,” Epic Games said in a blog post this week. “These services will be free for all developers, and will be open to all engines, all platforms, and all stores.”
That may not sound like much, but it has the potential to be huge: Epic Games is releasing a totally free set of tools that are intended to break down the barriers between players on different game platforms.
Instead of “Call of Duty” players on Xbox only playing with other Xbox players, this could open the doors to cross-play across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and more.
And it’s especially meaningful coming from Epic Games. When the North Carolina-based company isn’t creating the world’s biggest games, it also makes the tools that thousands of game developers use to make games: Unreal Engine 4. More directly: Epic Games is trusted by game developers all over the world when it comes to the tools used for building games.
But, unlike its work with Unreal Engine 4, Epic Games says that the cross-platform gaming services it’s offering are completely free; the company will issue a software developer kit in 2019 that’s free to use. The plan is to update the software developer kit throughout 2019 and beyond.
What this will mean in the long-run for gaming remains to be seen, but it’s an important move from a major third-party game studio with enough leverage to push platform holders like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.