Epic’s Fortnite banned by Apple and Google: Everything you need to know

Fortnite has been pulled from the App Retailer and the Google Play Retailer.

Epic Video games

Would you fairly struggle 99 small opponents or two actually, actually huge ones? On Thursday, Fortnite writer Epic Video games turned embroiled in a spat with each Apple and Google over charges the tech behemoths cost builders of their respective app shops.

Lengthy story brief: Fortnite has been kicked off both the App Store and the Google Play Store after trying to bypass the 30% fee Apple and Google charge developers. That is enormous information, for the reason that recreation has been downloaded over 250 million times on iOS alone

Epic countered by filing lawsuits against both companies. It is not searching for cash from both firm, simply that they repeal what Epic considers the businesses’ monopolistic practices. And it comes at a time when each Europe and the US are scrutinizing the power of Apple, Google and other tech giants

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Why did this happen?

Fortnite is a free-to-play game, meaning it’s free to download and Epic makes money from in-game purchases. Players can buy V-Bucks, in-game currency, which are used to buy new outfits, weapons and skins. It’s a hugely profitable business model. Fortnite generated $4.2 billion over 2018 and 2019.

But Epic has never approved of the 30% cut taken by Apple and Google on their respective app stories, so it set up a direct payment system allowing players to buy V-Bucks for cheaper through Epic, circumventing Apple and Google. When buying 1,000 V-Bucks, players were given a choice over paying $9.99 via the App Store or $7.99 through Epic.


Epic gave gamers the option to pay directly, instead of through the App and Play Stores.

Epic Games

Apple wasn’t having that, so it pulled Fortnite from the App Store. Google followed hours later, although Android gamers can still download the game directly through Epic — and if you previously downloaded it on iOS, you can still re-download it (you just won’t be able to update it or play new seasons). 

And now Epic is suing Apple?

It sure is.

Epic on Thursday 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. It stresses it’s not looking for compensation or special treatment from Apple, but for Apple to roll-back its anti-competitive practices and allow for “fair competition.” 

“To reach iOS users,” reads Epic’s filing, “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.”

The filing argues that Apple, in charging a 30% fee to publishers, take 10x more than companies like “PayPal, Stripe, Square or Braintree, which typically charge payment processing rates of around 3%.” 

Apple’s full reply, in which they said the App Store is an ecosystem that benefits developers and creates a level playing field, is below.

“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.”

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The suit escalated on Aug. 17, when Epic said in a court filing that Apple is threatening to ban the Unreal Engine code that Epic licenses to other game developers. This would affect dozens of apps, including Fortnite’s competitor PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

“Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas,” Epic said in its filing. “If the Unreal Engine can no longer support Apple platforms, the software developers that use it will be forced to use alternatives.”  

Apple fired back on Friday, Aug. 21, releasing a cache of emails between Epic CEO Tim Sweeney and Apple, showing that the Fortnite maker was seeking special treatment. Specifically, Epic wanted to run a competing app store and process payments itself rather than relying on Apple’s App Store and its in-app purchase system that takes a commission of up to 30% on all sales made on an iOS app.

“Sweeney expressly acknowledged that his proposed changes would be in direct breach of multiple terms of the agreements between Epic and Apple. Mr. Sweeney acknowledged that Epic could not implement its proposal unless the agreements between Epic and Apple were modified,” Phil Schiller, an Apple Fellow and former head of worldwide marketing, said in a statement filed with the court. “Apple has never allowed this,” Apple said in its filing. “We strongly believe these rules are vital to the health of the Apple platform and carry enormous benefits for both consumers and developers.”

Wait, what does this have to do with George Orwell?

Along with the lawsuit, Epic also released a video parodying Apple’s famous 1984 ad. Apple’s ad, released back in late 1983, promoted the upcoming launch of the Macintosh, railing against then-entrenched brand IBM. Epic’s video says Apple has become the new Big Brother of industry — a hugely powerful and overbearing entity.

This is something that Epic expounds more aggressively in its suit. “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.”


What about Google?

Epic is suing Google, too. Epic followed its lawsuit against Apple hours later with a similar one against Google. Its basis is the same as Apple’s: unlawfully anti-competitive practices related to app distribution, and app-related payments. 

“Google acquired the Android mobile operating system more than a decade ago, promising repeatedly over time that Android would be the basis for an “open” ecosystem in which industry participants could freely innovate and compete without unnecessary restrictions,” the filing reads. “Since then, Google has deliberately and systematically closed the Android ecosystem to competition, breaking the promises it made. Google’s anti-competitive conduct has now been condemned by regulators the world over.”

The suit argues that Android forms an effective monopoly for phone makers, like Samsung, LG and Sony, who have no real alternative to Android for their devices. Having achieved this monopoly, Epic says, Google then restricts the ability of companies to distribute apps in a way that competes with the Play Store.

“Epic’s experience with one [phone maker], OnePlus, is illustrative,” the swimsuit reads. “Epic struck a take care of OnePlus to make Epic video games obtainable on its phones by way of an Epic Video games app. The Epic Video games app would have allowed customers to seamlessly set up and replace Epic video games, together with Fortnite, with out obstacles imposed by Google’s Android OS. However Google compelled OnePlus to renege on the deal, citing Google’s “specific concern” about Epic being able to put in and replace cellular video games whereas “bypassing the Google Play Retailer.”

Just like the Apple swimsuit, Epic says it would not need fee from Google. “As an alternative, Epic seeks injunctive aid that may ship Google’s damaged promise: an open, aggressive Android ecosystem for all customers and business members. Such injunctive aid is sorely wanted.”

Previous to Epic submitting swimsuit towards Google, Google launched the next assertion on its choice to drag Fortnite from the Play Retailer,

“The open Android ecosystem lets builders distribute apps by way of a number of app shops. For recreation builders who select to make use of the Play Retailer, we have now constant insurance policies which might be truthful to builders and maintain the shop protected for customers. Whereas Fortnite stays obtainable on Android, we are able to not make it obtainable on Play as a result of it violates our insurance policies. Nevertheless, we welcome the chance to proceed our discussions with Epic and convey Fortnite again to Google Play.”

What do different corporations assume?

Epic is much from the primary to complain about anti-competitive practices from Google and Apple. 

Google and Apple have beforehand been accused of stifling competitors by way of their Android and iOS working techniques. 

Angela Lang/CNET

In 2018, the European Union fined Google $5 billion for monopolistic habits, which included Google’s suite of apps, like Chrome and Gmail, coming preinstalled on all Android gadgets. Spotify final yr claimed that Apple’s charging 30% for in-app purchases, comparable to subscriptions to Spotify Premium, stifle competition with Apple’s own apps, on this case Apple Music. In June, the EU launched a probe into Apple’s App Store practices.

Whereas the European Union has been extra energetic about regulating tech titans over the previous decade, the US is starting to scrutinize these large corporations in the identical method. In late July, Apple CEO Tim Cook sat in a Congressional listening to alongside Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg, CEOs of Amazon, Google-owner Alphabet and Facebook respectively, in a historic antitrust listening to.

Chatting with Congress, Cook dinner rejected the concept the App Retailer tilts favor in the best way of Apple’s personal apps.

“After starting with 500 apps, right this moment the App Retailer hosts greater than 1.7 million — solely 60 of that are Apple software program,” Cook dinner stated. “Clearly, if Apple is a gatekeeper, what we have now executed is open the gate wider. We need to get each app we are able to on the shop, not maintain them off.”

CNET’s Ian Sherr contributed to this report.

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Daniel Van Boom