Fortnite has been banned from Apple and Google’s app stores after a direct-payment feature was included in the latest update, and developer Epic Games has filed suit against both companies.
Apple and Google operate digital app stores that allow users to purchase and install content on iOS and Android devices respectively. Both companies take a 30% cut of purchases made through these digital stores and in-app purchases. However, in the latest update to Fortnite, developer Epic Games included a direct-payment feature that allowed players to purchase in-game currency directly from Epic — circumventing this 30% revenue split. Further, Epic boldly offered players a 20% discount when purchasing from Epic, incentivizing players to make purchases directly.
Both Apple and Google were quick to ban the game from their stores for violating their terms of service, citing the inclusion of the direct-payment feature. In response, Epic has filed suit against both companies seeking injunctive relief. The complaints, available below, allege that Apple and Google monopolize the respective iOS and Android app markets and engage in anti-competitive practices. For instance, the complaint alleges that Apple prohibits Epic from operating its own digital storefront on Apple devices that would allow Epic to distribute its own selection of curated content, and that Apple’s 30% revenue-split represents an “exorbitant tax” that harms both developers and consumers.
Alongside the suits, Epic released a short film titled Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite. The short film references Apple’s 1984 advertising materials for the Macintosh, which evoked George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. These early Apple advertisements cast IBM as a brooding corporate power monopolizing the computer technology market, and Apple as the consumer’s hope for fair competition with the tagline that “1984 won’t be like 1984.” Epic’s video pokes fun at these early advertisements and suggests that Apple has taken on IBM’s purported role from the past. The video has gained some traction, reaching #5 on Youtube’s Trending list at the time of this writing. The complaints and video were released within hours of the digital bans, indicating that Epic had planned for this eventuality.
It will be interesting to see how these suits play out. It is worth noting that Google’s application ecosystem is not quite as restrictive as Apple’s, which may lead to different results between the two cases. As one example, Fortnite is still available to Android users via the Epic Game Store and the Samsung App Store for users of Samsung devices, while existing iOS users may only play the un-updated version currently installed on their phones. New users are unable to obtain Fortnite on iOS at this time.