Epic Games’ much beloved title Fortnite is currently unavailable on both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
The reason is a wild ride that started on Thursday afternoon.
Epic Games announced The Fortnite Mega Drop, which offered discounts on in-game purchases of up to 20 percent. Importantly however, Epic Games revealed that if you paid it for V-bucks directly rather than going through the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, you would pay less for your in-game currency.
Now stick with us because things escalated very quickly from here.
Shortly after making this announcement Apple decided to remove Fortnite from the Apple App Store. The reason? Epic Games had violated the store’s terms and conditions.
“Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services,” wrote Apple in a statement via The Verge.
“Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem – including its tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.”
So then Epic Games responded in the obvious manner, it filed a lawsuit against Apple.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to end what Epic Games calls “Apple’s unreasonable and unlawful practices”.
“Apple’s conduct has caused and continues to cause Epic financial harm, but as noted above, Epic is not bringing this case to recover these damages; Epic is not seeking any monetary damages. Instead Epic seeks to end Apple’s dominance over key technology markets, open up the space for progress and ingenuity, and ensure that Apple mobile devices are open to the same competition as Apple’s personal computers. As such, Epic respectfully requests this Court to enjoin Apple from continuing to impose its anti-competitive restrictions on the iOS ecosystem and insure 2020 is not like ‘1984’,” Epic wrote in its filings.
Epic Games even made a little video that references the famous Apple 1984 commercial. You can watch it in the tweet below or over at this URL.
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
The video was screened in-game at Fortnite’s Party Royale space.
It seems as if Epic Games was prepared for Apple’s response to its direct pricing move but it seemingly wasn’t prepared for Google’s response.
Fortnite is currently unavailable on Google Play. More information will be forthcoming soon.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 14, 2020
Unlike earlier in the day however, Epic Games didn’t have a catchy video mocking something iconic Google has done. Hell, over on its #FreeFortnite blog post there isn’t even mention of the Google Play Store aside from listing it as a place Fortnite is still available.
And what is important here is that like Apple, Google takes a 30 percent cut of all in-app purchases. But Epic Games seemingly didn’t expect Google to respond the same way Apple did.
Speaking to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said, “The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users.”
“While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.” Google’s spokesperson added.
The fact that the app stores take a cut of in-app purchases has always been a sore point for developers and rightly so.
Last year Spotify filed a complaint with the European Commission stating that Apple’s App Store limited choice and stifled innovation. Importantly however, despite disagreeing with Apple, Spotify continued to tow the line.
In the case of Epic Games, Fortnite generated a staggering $1.8 billion in revenue in 2019. While it’s unclear what that revenue was across the various platforms Fortnite is available, one has to wonder whether this move by Epic Games was inspired by revenue dipping on mobile compared to other platforms.
Players who had Fortnite installed on an Android or iOS device before this kerfuffle will still be able to play the game but you won’t be able to update the game which is a bit of an issue with a game that thrives on seasonal content. In the case of Android you may still be able to side-load the app given that operating system’s “openness” compared to Apple.
Epic noted this over on its #FreeFortnite blog.
“Because Apple has BLOCKED your ability to update, when Fortnite Chapter 2 – Season 4 releases you will NOT be able to play the new Season on iOS. Make your voice heard with #FreeFortnite,” the firm wrote.
We have to wonder what Epic’s next move will be. Sure it’s filed a lawsuit but everyday that suit sits in an office is a day Epic isn’t earning money from “a billion devices” and one has to wonder when that becomes more important than a hashtag and a video.