Fortnite has been removed from the App Store, after Epic Games introduced an alternate method to buy V-Bucks on the platform at a 20% discount.
Epic Games announced that the price of V-Bucks, Fornite‘s in-game currency that can be bought with real money, would permanently be 20% cheaper on all platforms. All active players will also gain the Shooting Starstaff Pickaxe for free. However, on Android and iOS, a new payment method was introduced.
Rather than buying the V-Bucks through Google Play and the App Store respectively, Epic Games launched the “Epic direct payment.” “When you choose to use Epic direct payments,” the announcement explains, “you save up to 20% as Epic passes along payment processing savings to you.”
This is due to Apple and Google collecting a 30% fee through all V-Bucks bought on their respective platforms. As such, the 20% drop has not been applied to purchases made through them. Epic Games state that “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”
It seems Apple were none to amused by this. At this time of writing, Fortnite has been removed from the App Store. While the game appears in search results, the store page itself does not load. At this time of writing, the game is still available on Google Play.
Apple issued a statement to The Verge, claiming that the alternate payment method violate the App Store guidelines on in-app payments.
“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 its 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: Epic Games have now announced they are suing Apple.
The lawsuit criticizes the 30% tax on in-app purchases (comparing it to other services allegedly asking for only 3%), and rather than asking for damages are attempting to break Apple’s “monopoly.”
“Epic brings this suit to end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market (each as defined below). Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered. Nor is Epic seeking favorable treatment for itself, a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.”
UPDATE 2: It seems Epic Games may have known this would have been the likely outcome. Nearly 30 minutes before announcing they were suing Apple, Epic Games announced they would be revealing a new short. You can find that below.
The short is a clear parody of Apple’s Macintosh 1984 advert. The end of the trailer features crawling text as well as the “#FreeFornite” hashtag for social media (which is trending at this time of writing).
If we assume this short was made in advance of today’s announcement, it may be entirely possible that Epic Games told Apple what they planned to do. Apple then threatened to kick Fortnite of the App Store if they proceeded. On the other hand, we may be vastly underestimating how quickly the above short was made.
In both cases, Apple and Epic Games were evoking George Orwell’s 1984; a dystopian novel about a world where the population has fallen to totalitarian governments removing any sense of privacy, free thought, and free will. Apple used their advert painting IBM computers as having a monopoly, while Epic Games has now done the same to them.
UPDATE 3: Fornite has now been removed from the Google Play store. The Verge reports the following statement from Google.
“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users. 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.”
Google’s terms for in-app payments do state “Developers offering products within a game downloaded on Google Play or providing access to game content must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment.” Exceptions are granted for physical products, or digital content not related to the app.
With Google stepping into the fray, it seems Epic Games did not expect Google to take the same approach Apple did. We have also updated the image at the top of this article to reflect the story.
UPDATE 4: Epic Games has now sued Google. The Verge has obtained this lawsuit, and much like the suit against Apple, it claims that Google have a monopoly over Android and payment methods for apps on those devices.
“3. Epic brings claims under Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act and under California law to end Google’s unlawful monopolization and anti-competitive restraints in two separate markets: (1) the market for the distribution of mobile apps to Android users and (2) the market for processing payments for digital content within Android mobile apps. Epic seeks to end Google’s unfair, monopolistic and anticompetitive actions in each of these markets, which harm device makers, app developers, app distributors, payment processors, and consumers.
4. Epic does not seek monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered. Epic likewise does not seek a side deal or favorable treatment from Google for itself. Instead, Epic seeks injunctive relief that would deliver Google’s broken promise: an open, competitive Android ecosystem for all users and industry participants. Such injunctive relief is sorely needed.”
Original Story continues below:
Fortnite is available on Windows PC, Mac (both via the Epic Games Store), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Holiday 2020 on PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X. It used to be available on Android, and iOS.
Image: Epic Games, Wikipedia [1, 2]