Epic gives developers Fortnite's cross-platform tools for free

It plans to open up the software in 2019.

Fresh off the launch of its Steam rival, Epic Games isn't done shaking up the industry. Next up, it's giving away the toolkit that helped turn Fortnite into the year's biggest success story. Starting in 2019, Epic will make its cross-platform SDK -- the same tech that allows for battle royale action across PC, consoles and mobile -- available for free to all developers. Features include the ability to run parties, matchmaking, voice chat, and more across PC, Mac, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android. The cross-platform toolkit also works with Epic's own Unreal Engine and rival Unity's software.

"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."

Like its digital marketplace for games, Epic's announcement seems like another power play aimed at challenging Steam 's dominance -- whose parent Valve also offers its own software for matchmaking, cloud storage, and in-game purchases.

By scrapping the cost of entry, these tools should enable other developers, which already use Epic's popular Unreal Engine, to scale up their online multiplayer capabilities. They needn't look further than Fortnite for proof of what can be achieved. And it's not like Epic needs the cash, anyway.