CARY — Epic Games bills it as having the “largest cross-platform social graph in the world.”

Enter Epic Online Services, a new software development kit (SDK) that went live on Wednesday, which offers developers access to the same kinds of tools used to support Epic Games’ massive “Fortnite” player base.

The result: the ability to quickly and easily launch, operate, and scale their games across engines, stores, and platforms of their choice — with no boundaries. Developers can also connect to Epic accounts and leverage the platform, which includes more than 350 million players and their 2.2 billion friend connections on over half-a-billion devices, built up by Fortnite.

Another big perk: it’s free.

“At Epic, we believe in open, integrated platforms and in the future of gaming being a highly social and connected experience,” said Chris Dyl, Epic Games’ general manager, in a statement.

First announced in December 2018, the suite is compatible across seven major platforms — PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android — and includes features  like cross-play, cross-progression, unified matchmaking, lobbies, and more. Support for Android and iOS platforms will be added soon.

“Through Epic Online Services, we strive to help build a user-friendly ecosystem for both developers and players,” Dyl added, “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..

How it works

Epic Games said the suite delivers “the essential set of backend services” a game needs to work on any platform or store. Developers are free to selectively mix and match game services together with any other services, and are able to authenticate players with the OpenID identity provider of their choice or with any of the included out-of-the-box integrations with Apple, Discord, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, Steam, and Epic Games.

Among them:

  • Matchmaking: Match up players in pairs or groups to play together.
  • Lobbies (Preview): Give players the ability to join a session via invite or search, or create sessions of your own for players to join.
  • Peer-to-peer: Establish peer-to-peer network connectivity between multiple players regardless of firewalls or router setups.
  • Achievements: Motivate your players with badges, statuses, and achievements as they progress in your game.
  • Stats: Query player stats in real time and display achievements on leaderboards or within your own game construct.
  • Leaderboards: Show your players how they rank against their friends and everyone else, encouraging competitive and engaging gameplay.
  • Player data storage: Give your players the freedom to move between platforms by storing their game data in the cloud.
  • Game analytics: Track gameplay, frequency, player base, time, and location KPIs to identify opportunities for improvement or expansion.
  • Player ticketing: Connect directly with your players and personalize service through tickets tied to player profiles.

Some believe 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,” wrote tech writer Charlie Hall for the online journal Polygon.

“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.”