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Update: Epic Games has filed suit against Apple for “anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices.” The full text of the complain can be found here.
Epic’s official statement via PR is:
“Rather than tolerate this healthy competition and compete on the merits of its offering, Apple responded by removing Fortnite from sale on the App Store, which means that new users cannot download the app, and users who have already downloaded prior versions of the app from the App Store cannot update it to the latest version. This also means that Fortnite players who downloaded their app from the App Store will not receive updates to Fortnite through the App Store, either automatically or by searching the App Store for the update. Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market.”
Fortnite has been removed from the Apple App Store after introducing an in-app payment system that directs to Epic Games’ own payment solution. Epic has clashed with both Apple and Google in the past, stating that the 30% cut the two take from app revenue is too high. However, Epic eventually acquiesced to the payment requirements for both the App Store and Play Store. As of this morning, Fortnite was available in both storefronts.
Despite seemingly coming to terms with Google and Apple over the revenue split, Epic Games introduced a program today designed to circumvent their payment systems. The Fortnite Mega Drop initiative launched in the latest Fortnite update and offers a 20% discount on V-Bucks if you choose to use Epic direct payment instead of processing it through Google Play or the Apple App Store as normal.
Using its own payment system essentially gives Epic Games 100% of the revenue from in-app sales. In turn, Epic is passing 20% of the 30% that would go to Apple or Google in savings to customers. However, Apple, citing that Epic Games violated App Store guidelines, removed Fortnite from its storefront after the update launched.
Apple gave a statement to The Verge concerning the app’s removal from the iOS App Store:
“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.”
Fortnite has been listed in the iOS App Store since the mobile version released in 2018. However, this was only because iOS users can’t install third-party apps. On Android, Epic offered Fortnite as a direct download and through Samsung’s Galaxy Store, and wasn’t available on the Google Play Store until April of this year. The app was only begrudgingly added to the Play Store because, “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage,” according to an Epic Games statement.
It’s evident that Epic’s latest Fortnite update was designed to slight Google and Apple. However, it’s unknown whether the company knew the consequences would be this severe. The FAQ for the Fortnite Mega Drop discount indicates that Epic Games thought it would be allowed to stay on the Apple App Store as it directly references Apple and iOS.
Apple is the only company to penalize Epic Games for the Fortnite Mega Drop as of writing. However, given that it’s also available on Android, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch, we may see others take offense at Epic’s attempt to bypass their payment systems.