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Fortnite: Battle Royale is easily the biggest thing in the gaming world since … well, maybe anything. Some might say it’s so big because of the low barrier to entry or the simple and quick gameplay loop. Others might say it’s just a fad. But if that’s the case, it’s a fad with very long legs as it continues to dominate everywhere it’s released. That last point is important: that you can play Fortnite on anything and everything, is impactful — but even bigger than that, you can often play it with people on different devices!
But it wasn’t the first game to attempt this sort of crossplay. Others such as Final Fantasy XI (or even its successor, Final Fantasy XIV) mix console and PC audiences, but on a smaller scale, while card games like Hearthstone and The Elder Scrolls Legends mix mobile and PC. Psyonix’ Rocket League made multiplatform waves and concurrent user charts long before Epic’s fort-building shooter. Like Fortnite, Rocket League uses Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 and software like Vivox for voice communication. Games like Rocket League and Fortnite are driving a new era of cross-platform gameplay.
It’s a movement that’s here to stay.
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You can play Fortnite on just about any device that’s capable of running the Unreal 4 engine. What’s more impressive is that on all those devices, you can play with everyone else on all devices — with the exception of PlayStation 4, but that’s a whole other issue (and one that may be solved in the near future, as Sony has been slowly changing its tune). Your account for Fortnite persists across platform, meaning you can play on the PC, and then your Nintendo Switch, and then your iPhone, and still have access to all the same content, friends lists, and unlocks.
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It used to be a pipedream, the idea that you could play the same game on multiple consoles, and retain the progress across both. I remember daydreaming about how cool it would be back in high school — my friends had PlayStations, and I was a Nintendo loyalist. Wouldn’t it be great if we could play together, despite that difference?
This is the reality that the Unreal Engine and Fortnite are creating. And with time, Sony and the PlayStation 4 will have to capitulate and do the same with their system. And key to all this, alongside the power of Epic’s engine, is the voice and communications client that makes sure you can smack talk your friends no matter what device you’re playing on.
Cross-platform communication is key
Vivox is a company that’s been around for years, quietly powering the voice ops of the biggest games in the industry. It began humbly with Eve and the EverQuest franchise, but have grown to drive the tech behind League of Legends, PUBG, World of Tanks, Rainbow Six: Siege, and more. They are the voice tech behind Fortnite, including the Nintendo Switch version. Almost everything that doesn’t have its own form of voice chat uses Vivox.
It worked closely with Epic and Unity, so that adding their functions to any game is almost as simple as flipping a switch. Developers can plug it in so easily, and up until several thousand concurrent users, it’s absolutely free. They recently announce that they now serve over 100 million gamers, with eyes on moving into China’s gaming scene. Epic and Vivox understand that letting gamers play together should be tantamount to any other issues.
Fortnite is a prime example of crossplay done right. The only thing holding it back is its own partners, but when you’re the biggest game in the world, eventually those who hold out must give in. Gamers have their favorite systems, and they bicker and argue over who is best. But there’s one truth when it comes to multiplayer — they just want people to play with. Fortnite: Battle Royale may very well be the game that finally breaks down all the walls.
Rocket League: The proof is in the numbers
I talked to Jeremy Dunham, the VP of publishing at Psyonix, who gave us some numbers to pull from: “More than 3 million games are played in Rocket League every day, and nearly 30 percent of those daily matches are cross-platform,” said Dunham. “What we’ve been most excited about, though, is that the number of cross-platform games continues to grow week over week and we are even starting to see three-platform games (i.e. Steam, Xbox, and Switch) happening with more regularity as well.”
Epic was unable to comment on Fortnite’s crossplay numbers but given that the battle royale king is available on iOS and Android as well as all consoles and PC, it’s not unreasonable to expect similar data.
Simply put: crossplay is what the players want. It’s what they’re going to get. And in time, no amount of territorial blockading is going to stop it.
SB Ford is a longtime gamer who lives and games with her personal minion somewhere in the deserts of the USA.
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