Several companies have been challenging Apple on their iOS App Store policies in recent weeks, as the company faces increased scrutiny from regulators over its business practices.
The latest company to do so has been Epic Games, the maker of the hugely popular Fortnite, who today introduced a new way to pay for in-game currency that bypassed Apple’s systems. Seemingly in reaction to this, Fortnite can no longer be found on the iOS App Store – it obviously remains playable for the millions of existing owners, but can no longer be downloaded by new users and will no longer be able to receive updates.
Update: Apple released the following statement to The Verge:
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.
And Epic Games have immediately filed suit in response, while rallying their millions of players with a pastiche of Apple’s 1984 advertising campaign.
Epic Games has filed legal papers in response to Apple, read more here: https://t.co/c4sgvxQUvb
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
The original story continues.
Earlier today, Epic Games announced that they would be permanently discounting V-Bucks microtransactions on all platforms by 20%. On PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, nothing would change with the manner in which you pay, and nor would there be a difference to users who downloaded the game via epicgames.com or the Samsung Galaxy Store. However, for those who downloaded the game from the iOS and the Google Play Store, the company added a new “Epic direct payment” option alongside the traditional payment method, showing a 20% price disparity in the process.
That’s a direct attack on both app stores, who charge 30% for all purchases and transactions made through the store, with preferential treatment and exceptions made in certain circumstances. In making a 20% reduction, Epic theoretically now come out 10% ahead, though the company now has to handle the associated credit card fees, currency conversions, and so on.
While Google has yet to respond – the game’s availability directly from Epic was already a workaround the company made – but Apple have seemingly pulled the app within a matter of hours, as it now contravenes a number of their app store policies.
Apple have come in for strong criticism over the last few months, with a war of words with Microsoft over the exclusion of their xCloud streaming app. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will only be able to access game streaming via Android smartphones when the service launches in September.