Epic Games, the creator of the much-lauded Fortnite: Battle Royale, has announced that it will be creating a software development kit that will allow any developer to tap into its cross-platform play and multi-platform account capabilities. The SDK will begin rolling out in core form as a C-based SDK that will tunnel a developer's game or software into Epic Games' servers. This SDK will also integrate seamlessly with both Unreal Engine and Unity, making it easy for just about any project to take advantage. The fully cross-platform SDK will follow the game from platform to platform without any changes in function, and will gain more features as 2019 wears on.
Background: Epic Games has a large framework for its online services already in place, an endeavor that it explains can be expensive and painstaking. Once such services are up and running, however, it's apparently pretty easy and cheap to get it scaled out to a larger audience or a wider range of games and applications. This is the idea behind Epic's choice to offer its new SDK for free to all developers; the company says it simply wants to help developers to succeed. While it may seem like there's a catch missing somewhere, Epic actually has a vested interest in seeing developers succeed. Not only does popularizing its toolset make devs more likely to give Unreal Engine a spin and pay the requisite royalties on their game sales, it also means more developers can bring their ideas to life and potentially bring them to Epic's new storefront. Along with the core features, the SDK will gain an overlay, paid item entitlements, matchmaking capabilities, cloud saving, data storage, trophies and more. All of these capabilities will be put into the SDK on a gradual rollout, and they'll be easily available to developers who have put past versions of the SDK into their games. This means that any developer who hops on board early can easily implement the newer features into their games later on.
Impact: Fortnite ran into problems early on with accounts previously used on Sony consoles being locked down, and this seems like a subtle way for Epic Games to ensure nothing of that sort will happen to anybody else, along with sharing its myriad online service capabilities with developers in order to increase its own clout and get more games out into the world. This SDK is going to make it incredibly easy to build online shooters, MMORPGs, and a number of other types of online games, meaning that we're going to be seeing a ton of new games hitting the mobile scene and the console and PC gaming markets with those features intact, backed by Epic Games' SDK, servers, and tech. Whether this turns out to be a net positive for the space, of course, all depends on how well Epic Games handles things, as well as how warmly developers receive the company's initiative. While it's unlikely, since it's just a question of scaling existing systems outward, if Epic somehow manages to bungle this, it likely won't make the company any less of a household name, between Unreal Engine and Fortnite.