Shots have been fired in what could be a gigantic App Store war. Apple deleted Fortnite after Epic Games deliberately violated its terms of service by adding a direct payment for the popular game, cutting Apple out of sales. Later this afternoon, Google also banned Fortnite from its Play store.
Epic Games announced its Fortnite “mega drop,” a permanent discount of up to 20% on V-bucks (Fortnite’s in-game currency) and other cash purchases in the game. It also introduced a new direct payment option. If you purchased V-bucks in the game through the iOS App Store or Google Play, the old price was in effect. But the discount is included under the new direct option.
This battle has high stakes. Measurement firm Sensor Tower said Fortnite saw approximately 2.4 million installs in the last 30 days and generated $43.4 million in consumer spending in the App Store globally. To date, the game has reached 133.2 million installs and seen $1.2 billion in spending worldwide in the App Store alone.
Later in the day, Epic Games sued both Apple and Google for antitrust violations.
The Fortnite Mega Drop lands today! Get up to 20% in savings on V-Bucks using select payment methods. This isn’t a short term sale…these are our new prices!
More info about availability in your currency and how it works in our blog: https://t.co/E5w29QvO6m
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
Epic Games said Apple and Google continue to collect an “exorbitant 30% fee on all payments.” If Apple and Google lower their fees, Epic promises to pass the savings along to players. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been asking Apple and Android to end their “monopolistic practices” for months because he feels their fees are an unfair tax on all developers.
After Apple pulled the app, Epic Games launched a suit, filing a complaint for injunctive relief that alleges Apple has monopolized the iOS app distribution market and iOS in-app payment processing market, among other harms. Epic Games claimed in the lawsuit that Apple’s behavior has been anticompetitive. That’s sure to attract the interest of lawmakers and regulators, who recently held hearings in Washington, D.C. to probe possible antitrust violations by the big tech companies. We have asked Apple and Google for additional comment.
In a statement, Apple said the following:
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 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.
Less than two hours later, Google banned Fortnite from the Play store and issued this statement:
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.
Sweeney has called Google’s Android a “fake open system” because it put up barriers when Epic Games enabled players to sideload Fortnite directly from the Epic Games site, rather than through the Google Play store. Sweeney has also said he has no intention of cutting a special deal for Epic and wants all developers to get the same relief from the high fees. (Epic itself charges a 12% cut on sales in the Epic Games Store.)
Back in February, in a speech at the game industry’s Dice Summit, Sweeney said, “I am really hopeful that we get through it. We’re all going to have to be steadfast in fighting for these things, the opening up of games and cross-platform play, having a lot of tough and painful conversations between parties, which ultimately resulted in great, great things for all gamers. And we need to be prepared to have those unpleasant conversations as much as we need in order to achieve that future.”
Looks like the time for talking has ended.
Update at 4:04 p.m. Pacific: Google has also banned Fortnite from the Play store. You can still download Fortnite directly from Epic on Android.
Update at 10:46 p.m. Pacific: Epic Games has also sued Google.