Fortnite pulled from iOS App Store over direct payment option – Epic sues Apple [Update]

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.

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 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.

Sources: Epic Games, Gamespot

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  1. So the Fortnite fans will all get upset. Apple fans will defend them because they’re Apple. And that smug twat from Epic Games will be all “Look! Nasty Apple bullying the billionaire and his company! I mean, erm, something about consumers. It’s good for them? Can we spin it that way?”

    Apple won’t back down either. It’s probably made them lots of money, but nowhere near enough to risk everyone asking for the same thing.

  2. Apple are plain thieves, everyone knows that, and Google and Valve are just as bad. Greedy master-thief Steve Jobs started this and the legal system miserably failed protecting customers. It’s about time this practice ends.

    • Google and Valve don’t even come close to Apple in terms of greed. Android lets you install whatever you want, with some sensible precautions and warnings if you try and install from a 3rd party source. And Steam is exactly that sort of 3rd party source on Windows, with plenty of alternatives already available.

      The problem with Apple is you don’t have that option, because they treat their users as idiots with too much money.

      So why are they thieves? Because they’re charging 30%? Which covers payments, all the downloads and updates, and all that advertising. Do it yourself and that payments are going to cost more than it’d cost Apple, you’ve got to cover the cost of downloads and updates, and you won’t be advertised in the app store.

      For in-app purchases and subscriptions Apple wants to still charge 30% for, it’s a bit different. 30% is clearly excessive, but Epic Games obviously agreed to that before they changed their minds and pulled this latest childish stunt.

      And Epic obviously think 14% is the correct fee to be charging. Yes, 14%. If Apple were taking 30% of $10, then they’re selling this pretend Fortnite money for $7 + $3 in Apple fees. And now Epic are selling it for $7 + $1 in fees. Which is 14%. That actually makes them sound like the greedy ones, doesn’t it?

      The end result is going to be either good or insignificant for both Apple and Epic, great for all the lawyers involved, and quite possibly end up being a case of “Oooh, that’s good… wait a minute…” for the consumers. It always finds a way to end up like that. Don’t for one second think Epic are the good guys here and standing up against Apple. They’re owned by someone worth billions and the Chinese.

      • iOS and the app store is just stuck in its ways and needs a push to change and be more open in some ways. When it was created, it wasn’t terribly unreasonable to base its payment structure off the other media stores that Apple had created, but it’s not changed sufficiently with the times and that 30% now feels excessive, especially when it isn’t quite one rule for all.

        But it’s not as clear cut as Epic make it seem, and there are processing fees that are incurred and there is a growing awareness that apps do need policing (which Apple should be much better at) for privacy and security reasons.

      • If Epic were concerned about privacy and security, they would have launched the Android version on the Google store, and not make people bypass security features to install it from a 3rd party source. And not had a gaping security hole in it.

        Something they’d also do if Apple trusted it’s users to do that.

      • Of course, none of these players is doing anything because of reasons other than profit, not Apple nor Epic. To me, Apple is even more trustworthy than Google in other aspects, e.g. with regard to privacy.

        But this whole discussion of the adequate percentage of profit Apple would be reasonably charging is futile. Both remaining big mobile OS players, Apple and Google, just need to be legally forced to make it just as convenient for users to reach other app stores and apps. Just like Microsoft was forced to open up with regard to browsers on Windows. Then everyone, users and developers can decide whether the added value by these stores is worth it for them or not. Problem solved.

        And I’m not even talking about the utterly absurd situation that even the government of the country I live in, or the national railways requires me to have a business relationship with Evil Google, if I want to use their app. It’s truly unbelievable.

      • You can use other app stores on Android though. It does come with a sensible warning to make sure you really want to install something from a 3rd party source though.

        Are you suggesting Google should be forced to allow anything to install without any warning at all? Just to make it as convenient? And ignoring all the security issues that raises?

        Apple don’t give you that option at all. Google does, but gives a very sensible warning and blocks it by default.

      • I know, and I don’t mind the warning, although I don’t think it makes much sense other than scaring people off alternative sources, given the amount of malware-ridden apps on the Play Store.
        I’ve been using Lineage Android on my phone without any Google services nor an account with them for years now.
        But, believe me, it’s sometimes a pain to find the respective apps, you’re mostly limited to free apps (as the usual mirrors don’t have a payment solution), and many don’t run without G services on a device. So, even if sideload is possible for many apps, we’re many, many miles away from a free, customer-friendly, open market of software provision on mobile devices.

  3. Well this could be interesting. Seeing major companies fall out is always entertaining. I wonder if epic could try the same thing on xbox & psn?

    • Aren’t Sony very friendly with Epic at the moment? And with the PS5 and Series X coming very soon, Epic aren’t going to want to piss off either MS or Sony. I’m sure they’ll benefit from a friendly relationship with both companies when it comes to getting that Unreal 5 engine up and running. (And whatever the current version is until then)

      Apple clearly have rules about payments. Mostly seems to be it can’t be cheaper anywhere else, and you can’t promote the alternative payment over doing it through Apple. Although you can accept _only_ payments outside of the app, so that would have been the way for Epic to handle it. Unless there are separate rules for games that don’t apply to things like Netflix or Spotify.

      Do Sony and MS have similar rules? And is it just too convenient and profitable for Epic to want to risk pissing off Sony or MS?

    • It seems that Epic have agreed favourable terms with with Xbox, PlayStation and Sony, or that the fees for F2P MTX were lower to start with, because they are reducing the V-Bucks price on both systems without any hint of a complaint. Or maybe they’re just taking the hit for the time being.

      • I suspect it’s more that they’re making so much money there anyway that they can afford to take that hit.

        They’re basically just selling something costs nothing anyway. They could afford Apples 30% fees, or even more, and still be making billions. Which does suggest they’re just greedy too, or want a big fight for the publicity. How much will it cost them if they lose? Is that worth it for getting some advertising on the front page of the BBC’s website?

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