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Epic Online Services launches, giving other games access to Fortnite-style cross-play and more

Compatible right now with Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, PC, and Xbox

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Players drop into Fortnite Battle Royale Image: Epic Games
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Epic Online Services is now available, giving developers free access to the same kinds of tools used to support Epic Games’ massive Fortnite player base. The new suite, which went live on Wednesday, enables a unified gameplay experience across multiple platforms, including Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, PC platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux), and Xbox. It gives developers and their communities ready access to features like cross-play, cross-progression, unified matchmaking, lobbies, and more. Support for Android and iOS platforms will be added soon.

“At Epic, we believe in open, integrated platforms and in the future of gaming being a highly social and connected experience,” said Chris Dyl, general manager of online services at Epic Games, in a news release. “Through Epic Online Services, we strive to help build a user-friendly ecosystem for both developers and players, where creators can benefit regardless of how they choose to build and publish their games, and where players can play games with their friends and enjoy the same quality experience regardless of the hardware they own.”

First announced in December 2018, Epic Online Services could be a paradigm shift for modern video gaming. The system stands apart from other online services provided by major platform holders like Sony and Microsoft, while integrating information from all of them. This means players could have access to a unified friends list, and use that list to launch cross-platform play sessions in multiplayer games just like they can in Fortnite. Epic Online Services also supports cross-platform lobbies and peer-to-peer network connectivity.

Additionally, Epic Online Services includes access to cloud save functionality with an eye toward enabling platform migration. Theoretically, players could take their achievements and unlocks from one game console to another without needing to start over from scratch. The same functionality can also be applied to items purchased in-game.

Not every feature of Epic Online Services will be available in all games that choose to use the system. Epic said developers are free to pick and choose from many different features when developing games.

Additional quality-of-life features, such as voice chat, are absent from Wednesday’s announcement. Epic previously said to expect these and other features in 2019.

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