Fortnite is not an unfamiliar name for our generation. It is a behemoth in the video gaming industry. Now like every other company, Epic Games (the creator of Fortnite) also has competitors. But, instead of competing with 99 small opponents, Epic Games has decided to fight with two really, really big ones!
Fornite is a free-to-play game developed by Epic Games that is available on the App Store and Google Play Store. It’s free to download and Epic Games makes money from the in-app purchases. Players can buy V-Bucks, an in-app currency, which in turn can be used to buy virtual dance moves, costumes, and pre-released game modes inside the app.
This is a hugely profitable business model and has raked in revenues worth over $4.2 billion in 2018 and 2019 combined.
Now, Google and Apple are allowing developers to host and market their services on their digital front. So, it’s obvious that they would want their share of profit. Whenever you make an in-app purchase using Android or iOS, all the purchases are routed through their respective App stores. This means that Google and Apple can collect almost 30% of all the payments done to any developer.
Epic never approved of this 30% cut. And on 13th August, it set up a direct payment system allowing players to buy V-Bucks for a lower price through Epic, getting around Apple and Google. The players were given a choice over paying 9.99$ via the App Store or $7.99 through Epic. And, of course, any sane person would choose Epic as their payment gateway.
Well, Apple and Google are among the Big Tech and its advisable to stay away from them. But, Epic had decided to go head-to-head with these tech giants. And then, the expected happened.
Fortnite was kicked off the App Store by Apple. Google followed suit. And this was big news as the game has been downloaded over 250 million times on iOS alone.
Did Epic sue Apple & Google?
It sure did.
Within hours of it’s removal from the App Store, Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple in the North District of California court accusing Apple of anti-competitive practices for app distribution and app-related payments. Epic does not want money in return. It just wants Apple to allow users to install apps and softwares on iPhones outside the confines of the App Store. The case against Google is yet to get into full swing beacuse with Google, it’s a different ball game. Android users have a choice of downloading apps from third party sources and bypass the 30% fees.
In it’s filing against Apple, Epic said:
To reach iOS users, Apple forces developers to agree to Apple’s unlawful terms contained in its Developer Agreement and to comply with Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, including the requirement iOS developers distribute their apps through the App Store. These contractual provision unlawfully foreclose the iOS App Distribution Market to competitors and maintain Apple’s monopoly.
Epic just wants Apple to roll back it’s anti-competitive pracises and allow “fair competition”.
Apple’s reply to Epic Games read as follows:
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 has benefited from the App Store ecosystem - including the tools, testing, and distribution 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.
Epic did not stop at this.
Along with the lawsuit, it released a parody video that showcases Apple’s famous 1984 ad. This ad, released back in 1983, promoted the launch of Macintosh and was aimed at IBM. To put it simply, Epic just wanted to convey “You have become the very thing you swore to destroy” to Apple.
The suit also reads:
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 $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.
Same is the case with Google. Epic does not want money. It just wants Google to stay by its promise: “an open, competitive Android ecosystem for all users and industry participants.”
Nothing has been come out of Google’s law suit. Yet.
Fornite Chapter 2 : Season 4 was scheduled to be released on August 27th and it did. The only change was that only Android users got the benefit. Due to the ongoing antitrust feud between Apple and Epic Games, Apple has blocked Epic Games from issuing updates and new installs on Apple devices.
So, as of today, Fortnite has split into two games. On Xbox One, Nintendo Switch PC, PlayStation 4 and Android, players will have access to all the new content that will arrive with the most probable Marvel-themed new season. On Apple devices, the players would not be able to enjoy the new content.
To change the status of Fortnite on the Apple devices is in Epic’s hands. Apple just wants Epic Games to comply with their guidelines and remove the direct payment option. But, if Epic had to do that, it would have done it already. In a statement, Epic says that Apple wants to maintain their monopoly over in-app payments on iOS and in turn suppress free market competition and inflating prices. It also said that as a matter of principle, it won’t participate in this scheme.
It would be interesting to know how things turn out in the near future.