App Store and Google Play banned Fortnite after Epic Games bypassed payment cut

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Nothing to see here, just two big corporates fighting over money.

On August 13, 2020. Epic Games' battle royale game Fortnite was pulled out from the App Store and the Google Play after Epic Games announced a new payment method to bypass a 30% payment cut from both stores.

Background

Epic Games announced the Fortnite Mega Drop update, a permanent discount on V-bucks (in-game premium currency) and other cash purchases in the game of up to 20% on August 13, 2020. The developer was quick to point out that it’s not a sale: these are new prices for the in-app currency in both the PC and console versions of the game. On mobile, however, things are a bit more complicated.

The Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, the dominant app store for iOS and Android devices respectively, had enforced a 70/30 payment cut from every app published on their stores, which means Apple and Google will receive 30% cut of every transaction made on their stores. As Epic wanted to apply the new discounted price on the mobile port of Fortnite, they announced a new payment method; Epic direct payment, which bypassed App Store and Play Store's payment cut and allowed the players to pay for various items at a "discounted" price, same as the other platforms.

A few hours after the Mega Drop went live, Apple had removed Fortnite from the App Store, citing that Epic has violated their guidelines by completely bypassing its payment cut and took all of the profits for their own. A few hours later, Google had also removed Fortnite from their Play Store for the same reason given by Apple.

Reactions

Following the removal, Epic revealed a carefully calculated series of responses, including an antitrust lawsuit seeking to establish Apple’s App Store as a monopoly and a protest video named "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite" that aired on YouTube and within Fortnite itself mocking Apple's "1984" ad. According to "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite" video, Epic Games "has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices." Epic Games then launched #FreeFortnite campaign, calling on gamers to "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984'" by supporting its fight against Apple.

While Epic Games expected to gain huge support against Apple since the latter banned Microsoft's Xbox Cloud services from the App Store for "security issues" and also received a considerable amount of backlash a few days ago, many quickly pointed out that it was Epic's fault for violating Apple and Google's ToS to exploit the payment system for their own profit. Some also found Epic's statement to "fight against a monopolistic market" to be hypocritical, as they also tried to monopolize several games on their Epic Games Store via various exclusive deals.

On August 28, 2020. Apple terminated Epic Games' account from the App Store and thus preventing Epic from delivering any updates to the iOS version of the game. Apple also featured PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Fortnite's competitor on the front page. Tim Sweeney quickly responded by mocking Apple by boasting that PUBG is powered by their Unreal Engine.

As of 2021, those who have already downloaded Fortnite on iOS can still play the game; the newer updates of the game are unavailable however as a result of Apple banning Epic Games from the App Store. You can still use Epic’s in-app payment system, according to The Washington Post's Gene Park, who used both Apple and Epic payment systems to purchase V-Bucks. The Android version is now only available on Samsung devices (via Galaxy Store) and Epic Games' websites.

While Apple Store method retain banned as of 2022, iOS players can still access the game via Safari bowser[1] with XCloud, GeForce NOW and Stadia.

Epic Games vs. Apple lawsuit verdict and impact

On September 10, 2021, the final verdict of the Epic Games vs. Apple lawsuit was held by the State Court of California. Judge Gonzalez Rogers refused to rule in favour of either Epic Games, or Apple, after she hit upon a compromise none of the two had asked for, asking economist David Evans if it would be sufficient to kill Apple's anti-steering rules. Although she ruled mostly in Apple's favor on 9 counts, she found against them on their anti-steering policies under the California Unfair Competition Law, while she stated that Apple's App Store is not violating the antitrust laws due to it allowing several potential competitor apps of Apple's own service to be published on their store, while pointing out that Epic's claim of monopoly was "overreached" and cannot prove that Apple is a monopoly. Though she pointed out that Apple's 30% payment cuts is anticompetitive and ruled Apple to inform their users about alternate payment method, Rogers ruled that Apple's decision to ban Epic Games from their store lawful and justified due to contract breach, and also ordered Epic to pay 30% cut of transactions made thought Epic Direct Payment to Apple as compensation.

A week before the final verdict, however. Apple has reduced the payment cut from the App Store to 15% due to pressure from law firms and antitrust movement. Google has also reduced their payment cut from their Play Store to 15% following the verdict.

On January 2022, Epic Games announced that they and Apple has reached an agreement to concede on either party's demands, and that Fortnite will be returned to App Store.

Trivia

  • The documents for the lawsuit revealed some characters that Epic Games may be possibly adding to Fortnite, such as Samus Aran from Metroid, Naruto, Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games, John McClane from Die Hard, and more.

References

  1. Free Fortnite Why We Fight section: Apple's policies prohibited gaming services to be on the App Store.

Videos

Epic Games' protest video

Videos covering the controversy

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