Fortnite Removed From Apple And Google Stores, Epic Taking Both Companies To Court

Fortnite Removed From Apple And Google Stores, Epic Taking Both Companies To Court
Screenshot: Epic
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Following Epic’s release of its own direct payment method for Fortnite on Apple and Android mobile devices this morning, Apple has removed the popular battle royale from its store. In response, Epic has filed a legal injunction against Apple.

All games on the App Store are required to use Apple’s payment system for any in-game purchases — including, until this morning, buying Fortnite’s in-game V-Bucks currency, which can be spent on skins, items, and the game’s battle pass. Epic has long complained that Apple’s requirement, which results in 30% of all payments going to Apple, is unfair. This morning, Epic started selling V-Bucks in the mobile versions of Fortnite at a discount via a new option to buy them from Epic directly. This violated Apple’s rules and resulted in Apple kicking Fortnite out of the store. There’s no doubt Epic knew this would happen, as they had a lawsuit, a commercial, and a pre-planned social media hashtag all prepped to complain about Apple as soon as it happened.

Apple explained its removal of Fortnite in a statement to The Verge:

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.

Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem – including it’s 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.

(Update — As reported by The Verge, Google has followed suit, kicking Fortnite off the Google Play store. Google has similar rules to Apple regarding its store. Fortnite is still available on Android through Epic’s app or the Samsung store for those devices, with Google writing, “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.”)

In response, Epic filed a complaint of legal injunction against Apple, explaining in a statement to Kotaku that “Epic has taken legal action to end Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions on mobile device marketplaces.” In the complaint, Epic takes issue with Apple’s dominance over games on iOS mobile devices, writing that “There is no procompetitive justification for Apple’s anti-competitive conduct in the iOS App Distribution Market” and noting that Mac computer users are not subject to these restrictions, calling into question why these practices are necessary on mobile devices. The complaint reads that “Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered. Nor is Epic seeking favourable treatment for itself, a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets [the App Store and in-app payment processing] that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.”

(Update #2 — Epic is now filing a complaint for injunctive relief against Google as well).

While Apple removing one of the biggest video games in the world from its store is a shock, this fight isn’t surprising. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has long railed against both Apple and Google’s 30% cut of app store purchases, which Epic called “exorbitant” in a now-updated FAQ about the new payment options today and which its legal complaint calls “oppressive.” V-Bucks were “up to 20%” cheaper via Epic direct payment than through Google and Apple’s stores, and Epic writes in the FAQ that the company believes “all mobile developers and consumers have the right to choose alternate payment providers that charge less.” Apple currently finds itself under heightened scrutiny over ongoing antitrust concerns, which Epic’s legal response addresses, reading in part,

Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $US2 ($3) trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.

As pointed out by Eurogamer’s Tom Phillips, while iOS players can currently still play Fortnite, the removal from the store might affect their ability to play the game once the new season begins later this month. Epic also notes this in a blog, writing, “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.” Epic encourages players to rally around a hashtag, #FreeFortnite, and to complain to Apple to “make your voice heard in the fight against the app tax.” It’s a clever move on Epic’s part — while players might not care about Tim Sweeney’s crusade for the free market, they’ll certainly care if they can’t play the game.

Fortnite’s Party Royale showed a short video at 4pm today parodying Apple’s “1984” television commercial, which is also mentioned in Epic’s legal complaint. The video ended with text reading “Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984.’”

We’ve updated this story with further developments about Epic’s response, including information about the company’s injunction, its in-game parody of Apple’s advertising, and its FreeFortnite website.

Comments

    • Far as I can remember they have always tried to lock things down and prevent competition. thus their physical device chargers being unique as well as the fact their desktop OS has no legal method of being used on a non apple device.

      I can’t remember them being any different.

      • Thats something that has always puzzled me. Microsoft lost that big antitrust case years ago, but Apple has been doing the same or worse but not being called out on it.

        • yeah its funny really. microsoft get screwed for simply preinstalling internet explorer. nothing stopped anyone from using anything else. apple pull the worst shit possible. everyone shrugs and accepts their apple overlords. i havent been keeping up to date on the current situation, but have heard the rumours of a court case coming against apple. i hope they get what they deserve.

          • Microsoft didn’t get screwed for ‘simply preinstalling internet explorer’. It lost a complex antitrust case based on the fact that it designed IE in a way that integrated it completely into the operating system, to the point that uninstalling it was impossible without causing Windows to malfunction.

            Microsoft’s argument was that a browser and an operating system were inherently the same thing and inseperable, which was self-evidentially horseshit.

            Further, it locked non-IE browsers completely out of being able to use certain routines necessary for higher levels of functionality, and made it frustrating and convoluted to install other browsers, discouraging anyone other than the most technical users, including deliberately ensuring that other browser start icons were not placed automatically on the desktop after installing them.

            Microsoft didn’t just simply preinstall internet explorer, it deliberately sabotaged competing browsers.

        • I think the difference was that apple only had about 10% share of the market back then, while Mircosoft controlled the 90%

    • Apple’s multitude of walls and gardens inside their Fort Knox ecosystem should be a concern for everyone. I’m surprised Epic don’t simply advise Fortnite players to move to Android. At least that platform is open source, so if you don’t like Google’s or the manufacturer’s shovelware or app store, you can just download the apk update from the game dev direct and install yourself. It’s about as safe to do as use the Play/App Stores these days, given how much malware & MTX/loot box/ad infested crapware slips through their cracks these days! Not that anyone is under the delusion that this is is about anything except money and market control. Not that Epic is any better with their games store mind you, but at least they’ve given me 50+ great games to date, absolutely free! 😀

  • I am quite glad I installed Fortnite on my phone using the Epic Games launcher. I will say it is quite ridiculous that appstore take 30%. That’s absolutely ludicrous that they’ve been getting away with it for so long. This isn’t a fight between one giant vs another. This is Epic Games standing up and fighting for the little devs out there, because they have the money and resources to fight for them

    • I’m having trouble believing you’re sincere, here.

      Epic is a mega corporation. This is three mega corporations fighting each other for market dominance. Not one of them give 1/3 of a fuck about small devs or customers. Any good that comes out of this is entirely coincidental and you can bet that they’re going to try and make it look like their motivation rather than a side effect of their blatantly cynical attempts at shifting power from one faceless behemoth to another.

      • Pokedad is right.
        Tim props himself up as the hero for the little man but this is entirely about getting epic more money and gaining good will while doing it.

        • Oh it absolutely is, but it’s also got the side benefit of saying that other companies *should* be able to avoid that horrendous 30% cut as well on every transaction that takes place. There’s no doubt this is primarily so a mega-corporation can still make billions, but a side effect is that it STILL will have some sort of side benefit.

          • yep. doesnt really matter what epics intentions are. this is absolutely in favour of everyone except apple and google. epic can come right out and say f everyone but me. but if they win, it is still a win for everyone but apple and google.

  • You just know they had this 1984 parody prepared in advance. They knew Apple would pull Fortnite for this, for what I’m sure is a TOS violation, and had this video made before it went down.

    Guess they weren’t expecting Google to do the same!

      • I think its different, Epic takes a cut whenever games is sold through their store, but don’t take a cut for in game purchases since the developer need to implement payment system of their own or use 3rd party payment system.

        But Apple take cut for games sold and in app purchase, which is 30%, and developer not allowed to use other payment provider for this.

        • It’s a little different when a game is free to play and makes all of its money through microtransactions. If Apple can’t make any money off the microtransactions, and doesn’t charge any hosting fees, it gets effectively no profit from Fortnite’s however-many-millions of iOS users, while still incurring server maintenance/storage/bandwidth costs associated with making a multi-million-user game available on their platform.

          • Server maintenance/storage/bandwidth costs which do literally nothing for running Fortnite other than hosting a link to it on their store web page.

            Further, Epic isn’t stopping people from using Apple’s payment systems and some players still will for a wide range of reasons, including convenience, habit, gift cards and suchlike.

            Even with Epic offering a discount for purchases through its own store Apple would still be making more than enough to justify the bandwidth involved in keeping a simple webpage running.

    • It contains OG skins and the unicorn pick axe… which are so ancient. Fortnite may have of prepared this years ago when they were refusing to be on Android and Apple stores in the beginning.

  • So epic changed their game purposely to break their game and Apple ToS, then gets upset cos Apple reacts exactly as expected, as per their clear ToS. Talk about attention seeking.

    • They had an advertising campaign queued up and ready to go, mobilizing their fans to blame Apple, in the biggest piece of one-sided bullshit misinformation I’ve read since the last time someone brought my attention to a Trump tweet.

      They’re calling on Fortnite kids to get mad and donate to their legal fund. I can only assume this is their opening gambit in an attempt to get the 30% take reduced.

    • Way to completely misconstrue the situation

      Look up what antitrust is

      Did you know apple is currently being investigated by the US government for it?

      Epic wants to make these platforms better for all developers, not just them.

      • You seriously think Epic is doing this out of the goodness of their heart and trying to strike down this nasty big company… nah they just want their sweet profit. No more, no less.

        Also if you believe Epic are some how more ethical than Apple, that’s too hilarious, even for you.

        • You are hilariously ignorant and blind to reality.

          What’s it like living in the land of pretend Blakey?

          Ignorance sure is bliss in your case bud.

  • I find it hard to feel sorry for either of them. On one hand, 30% is a massive cut that apple takes, but they also provide a walled garden that is curated (to an extent) that means that their users can trust what they are downloading and buying, and that if there is a problem they can go to Apple.

    I don’t care about Fortnite, what I do care about is corporations trying to one up each other, Epic’s move isnt about protecting smaller devs, its about them making more money, look at Epics store, do you think they are pouring all this money and effort into getting exclusives and games away from Steam for an altruistic purpose? Of course they aren’t. I also don’t think Apple is any different, they are in it to make money, but there is also a history there of attempting to protect their users and their data, its one of the core parts of their business, and when Epic tries to circumvent the TOS that is part of that, of course Apple is going to bring down the hammer on them.

    It has now got more interesting that Google has followed suit, Epic may have bitten off more than they can chew on this one.

  • Samsung also dropped the game from their store, which is also interesting cause they had signed exclusive deals with Samsung to put it on their store and their phones.

  • I’m confused. Fortnite is free. The cost to be hosted is a share of all purchases and a $99 per app annual fee. If all of the in-app purchases go directly to Epic without Apple taking a cut, how does Apple get literally ANY amount more than $99 per year from Epic?

    That’s fucking absurd. It sounds like they’re demanding to operate rent-free.

    • Epics arguement is that 30% of all total sales, without upper limits, is exploitative and profiteering way above the cost of running the store or delivering infrastructure. That the whole structure is a monopoly. Epic is saying that they are not entitled to millions of dollars of their revenue a month, if they are only delivering value.

      Its also not the only case against Apple (and other store fronts) about this 30% commission which somehow became and industry standard.

      If they squash the 30% Apple Tax, than Apple will have to create a new fee structure… such as active users, download, network access fees. After all the application fee is just an entry barrier to stop app spamming, which considering the malware scams on the store, isn’t working either.

    • All else being equal, Apple and Google’s payment processing system offers the best user experience on their respective platforms. They’ve already got a relationship with the customer, and have a payment source set up independent of the individual app. They’ve even got alternative methods of payment for those without credit/debit cards.

      The problem is that everything else is not equal: their processing fee is 30%, when services like Stripe and Paypal are charging less than 5%. That’s big enough that both customers and developers would be willing to jump through some additional hoops to save money.

      I suspect that if Apple was charging closer to 10%, developers and users would choose to use their payment platform even without being forced to.

  • If they want to take them to court then go for it, but dropping content in game to an audience of actual children To get them to tweet in support is just *so* gross.

    I genuinely do think the 30% cut is stupidly high but this feels like the sort of thing that should be settled behind closed doors. Seeing cartoon characters to essentially market a lawsuit seems super wrong.

  • I don’t really understand their issue with Google, since there are alternate app stores, and you have the option to bypass app stores altogether and just download and install the apk file if you really want to break free of the “restraints” imposed by Google.

    • The issue is exactly the same…
      They demand a large cut, for extremely little effort and service in return.

      Sideloading is going to mean you lose access to most users.

  • “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation.”

    Says the company who is seeking to control the market by forcing exclusive contracts on games in an attempt to force other storefronts to change their policies and now deliberately antagonizing the mobile marketplace to get what they want. Exclusive contracts by nature block competition because there’s only you selling. How then can innovation occur when one marketplace is removing all ability to compete with new offerings, technologies and services?

    This is one of those fights I hope ends in mutual destruction. Epic has been long masquerading selfish intent as being “For the developers” and has grown quite cocky because of it. Even this move is more about them getting more money while saying “We’re passing savings to the consumer!”. While I agree with their stance on Apple, they need to remember that when you point a finger, three are pointing back at you.

  • Whilst I don’t agree with Apple/Google’s rent seeking (considering how little value either adds to their stores), Epic afaic can play the tiniest of violins here for all the fucks I care.

    They could have easily launched legal action without doing this and harming their consumers access to the game. Instead, here we are playing PR bs.

    • Epic have never argued that the transaction cost should be zero, just that 30% is far too high given that literally all Apple are offering here is a payment front end and a storefront.

      • “Epic have never argued that the transaction cost should be zero…”
        Epic’s direct payment method is literally zero to Apple.

      • But in their big shift against the evil money hungry corporation the first thing they do is carve out more profit for themselves. With no guarantee of course that prices don’t end up back where they were. I agree that 30% is outdated and unfair. But the positioning here is gross.

        • It’s not clear how much profit is carved out from a 10% transaction fee given there remain actual costs associated with running a payment front end, including covering credit card fees, administering disputes and refunds, security and anti-fraud measures, etc.

          What we do know is that Epic’s costs are at least a third of Apple’s, and furthermore, that a successful case here potentially opens Apple and Google up to third party competition in addition to just that from Epic.

          There’s no reason at all to believe that a successful outcome for Epic wouldn’t lead to a significant increase in competition and lots of pressure for Apple and Google to shave their own margins. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Apple, Google or even Steam persisting with a 30% split if Epic’s case is successful.

          Even if everyone simply reverted to a 30% share and just spread the pie around a bit more broadly it still means more money to game developers to actually make games rather than the cash going to companies that are just selling them.

          ‘Gross’ is just 21st Century hyperbole. Epic’s stand is this case is unequivocally pro-gamer, pro-consumer and pro-market competition.

          • It’s unequivocally pro Epic, and if the can whip up some public support they will, regardless of their own track record. Store exclusive are not pro consumer or gamer yet form the back bone of their policy. So anti competitive when it suits them. Nobody likes paying more, 30% is too high. But stop pretending that the fight is about anything more than their hip pocket.

          • @ledbetter14. Your cynicism is showing. Something can be both good for people generally and good for one company specifically. Life is not an either-or proposition. Nobody’s pretending that Epic’s motives are entirely pure, but don’t be so cute as to suggest that this discounts the numerous other benefits likely to be gained from Epic’s action.

  • I thought about this a bit more… and I missed the bloody obvious thing here. The other enemy that have, Steam!

    Epic Games is NOT trying to break down the walled-economy of Apple and Google to save a few million dollars. Epic Games is trying to break down the walled-economy of Apple & Google… SO THEY CAN SELL ANDROID AND IOS GAMES!!!

    • Epic have never made any secret of the fact that they are in the business of breaking down monopoly rent seekers so that they aren’t forced to give away a huge chunk of their income to companies whose contribution to actually making and marketing computer games is literally just a landing page on a website and a credit card processing algorithm.

        • I have no idea what point you’re trying to make here. But in any case, the cut is EGS is less than half the cut being taken in the other stores. Nobody said that the cost of running a store font and payment platform was zero.

  • How does this affect Sony etc.? Sony take a 30% cut of PSN sales with no alternative digital option. Will we see people push for side loading as more people go digital or are we just used to the status quo with consoles?

    • Don’t know on the flow on effects, but you are right that this could potentially lead to some drastic changes in the industry if it fell Epic’s way.

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