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‘Fortnite’ Removed from Apple and Google App Stores as Developer Sues Both Companies

The popular video game was removed from the stores after its developer introduced a direct-payment option to avoid app store fees.

"Fortnite"

“Fortnite”

Courtesy of Epic Games

Fortnite,” one of the world’s most popular video games, was removed from Apple and Google’s app stores on Thursday, prompting developer Epic Games to sue both companies.

The game’s removal from the stores came shortly after Epic Games announced a direct-payment option for “Fortnite,” which  bypasses the 30 percent fee that Apple and Google collect through their own app stores. By paying Epic Games directly, customers would receive 20 percent discounts on their purchases.

Apple responded by removing the game from its app store and a company spokesperson stated that Epic Games had enabled the feature without Apple’s review or approval. In a statement provided to IndieWire, an Apple spokeperson said:

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 it’s 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.

Though users who already have “Fortnite” on their iOS or Android devices will still have access to the game, Epic Games noted in a FAQ that they will not be able to access the game’s upcoming content, as “Fortnite” will not be updated on those platforms.

An Epic Games spokesperson confirmed its suit to IndieWire and said that the company was taking “legal action to end Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions.” An excerpt from the video game developer’s legal filing against Apple reads:

Rather than tolerate this healthy competition and compete on the merits of its offering, Apple responded by removing ‘Fortnite’ from sale on the App Store, which means that new users cannot download the app, and users who have already downloaded prior versions of the app from the App Store cannot update it to the latest version. This also means that ‘Fortnite’ players who downloaded their app from the App Store will not receive updates to Fortnite through the App Store, either automatically or by searching the App Store for the update. Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market.

The developer’s full filing against Apple can be read here. Epic Games also released a video parodying Apple famous “1984” Super Bowl commercial. The video was also streamed in the video game’s “party royale” mode, which has been used to host virtual concerts and Christopher Nolan films, on Thursday afternoon.

Google removed “Fortnite” from its app store shortly after Epic Games filed its suit against Apple, which prompted the video game developer to sue Google as well. In its legal filing, the developer also criticized Google for maintaining a monopoly in multiple markets.

“Google unlawfully maintains monopolies in multiple related markets, denying consumers the freedom to enjoy their mobile devices — freedom that Google always promised Android users would have,” Epic Games said in its legal filing against Google.

A Google representative confirmed the video game’s removal from Google Play, but declined to comment on Epic Games’ legal filing against Google.

Although “Fortnite” is available on a variety of platforms, including Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows, the game is also popular on mobile platforms. Mobile data firm Apptopia reported in July 2018 that “Fortnite” was downloaded 100 million times on iOS five months after launching on the platform and generated $160 million in in-app purchase revenue. That number has likely increased in the following two years; “Fortnite” is one of the most financially successful titles in the video game industry and SuperData, a Nielsen-owned research firm, reported that Fortnite generated $1.8 billion across all platforms it was available on in 2019.

“Fortnite” became available on the Google Play store in April 2020, but Android users were able to download the game prior to that by downloading “Fortnite” directly from Epic Games’ website. Though the game is currently unavailable on Google Play, a Google spokesperson noted that the game is still available on Android. The video game made headlines in 2018 when Epic Games made “Fortnite” available for Android users via its dedicated app; at the time, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney stated that the company was avoiding Google Play due to the aforementioned 30 percent “store tax.”

The removal of “Fortnite” from iOS and Google Play and Epic Games’ lawsuit sent reverberations through the video gaming and mobile app industries alike. The news caught the attention of Spotify, which expressed solidarity with Epic Games’ legal filing against Apple in a statement to IndieWire.

“We applaud Epic Games’ decision to take a stand against Apple and shed further light on Apple’s abuse of its dominant position,” a Spotify spokesperson said in a statement. “Apple’s unfair practices have disadvantaged competitors and deprived consumers for far too long. The stakes for consumers and app developers large and small couldn’t be higher and ensuring that the iOS platform operates competitively and fairly is an urgent task with far-reaching implications.”

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