The Fortnite vs Apple and Google Controversy, Explained

The Fortnite vs Apple and Google Controversy, Explained

With tension brewing between Epic Games, Apple, and Google, here is everything we know so far about the controversy surrounding Fortnite.

In case you haven’t heard of three small companies named Epic Games, Apple, and Google, last week saw some seismic news take place between the three powerhouses of the tech and gaming industries. Centered around Fortnite–the battle royale sensation that is arguably the biggest game in the world–Epic Games fired back on Apple and Google with its “#FreeFortnite” campaign after Fortnite was removed from the App Store and Google Play Store. More or less, Epic is aiming to take a shot against Apple and Google’s monopolistic hold on the app market by leveraging Fortnite‘s massive worldwide success and popularity.

A lot has happened between these three companies in just the past week, and for those that have seen Fortnite in the headlines lately and aren’t sure what’s going on, we have you covered. Below you’ll get the overhead view on the Fortnite vs. Apple and Google controversy, what has happened so far, and what the motivations are behind Epic trying to take on these two tech giants. News on the situation is currently developing and is surely to change, but here is everything we know so far about the Epic Games, Apple, and Google controversy.

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What happened between Epic Games, Apple, and Google?

On August 13, 2020, Epic Games rolled out an update for Fortnite that permanently reduced the cost of V-Bucks–the in-game currency used to purchase skins and items–by 20% across all platforms. Notably, on the iOS and Android versions of Fortnite, Epic introduced the ability for mobile players to purchase the discounted V-Bucks through the “Epic direct payment” option, which would allow Epic to side-step Apple or Google gaining revenue from the purchase of V-Bucks through the in-game marketplace.

As noted in Epic Games’ blog post regarding the V-Bucks announcement, both Apple and Google collect a 30% fee from purchases made through its app stores. Essentially, Epic’s discount on V-Bucks–while lowering their revenue by 20%–would lead them to still earn more than allowing Apple and Google to collect their fee from purchases made in the game natively.

This update to the game by Epic was (unsurprisingly) not known or approved by either Apple or Google and was in direct violation of each respective company’s terms of service. As a result of the implementation of this direct payment option, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store on August 13, with Google following shortly after to remove the game from the Google Play Store.


Can I still play Fortnite on mobile?

As of this writing, Fortnite is still removed from both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, meaning you can’t download the game or find it in either marketplace if you’ve never downloaded or played the game before. However, if you have either played or downloaded the game on mobile before, Fortnite (for now) is still accessible to play.

If you already had the game downloaded on either your iOS or Android device, you can open the game and play it normally, along with making purchases from the in-game store such as new skins or Battle Passes. If you’ve previously downloaded the game before but deleted it, you also can redownload the game if you head into the previously-downloaded apps section of your account. However, Epic Games noted that when Fortnite: Chapter 2 – Season 4 releases in a few weeks, this will make the game’s new content inaccessible to iOS players due to the app requiring an update, which is currently blocked by Apple. So if you’re an iOS owner, you have to either have previously or already downloaded the game in order to continue playing it.

For Android players, Fortnite is a little more easily accessible to play at the moment. While the game itself is removed from the Google Play Store, Android users can still download the game from the Epic Games App or the Samsung Galaxy Store, though like with iOS, users won’t be able to download or update to the latest version once Season 2 – Chapter 4 begins in the coming weeks.

Though the mobile versions of Fortnite are in limbo by Apple and Google, the console (PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch) and PC/Mac versions are still available to play as normal. With the game supporting cross-progression between platforms, this also means that you won’t lose items or progress if you switch over from the mobile versions to either console or PC. Hopefully this is a temporary measure until Epic Games can come to some sort of agreement with Apple and Google to make the game accessible to mobile players again.


What is Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite and #FreeFortnite?

Almost immediately after Fortnite was removed from the App Store by Apple, Epic Games responded by releasing a video on Fortnite‘s official YouTube channel and social media accounts called “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite.” While a good majority of Fortnite‘s audience may not know the reference, the video itself is a clear parody of Apple’s “1984” commercial, one of its most iconic advertisements that had its national debut during Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984. You can take a look at Epic’s video below, along with Apple’s original commercial that inspired it:

Taking obvious cues from George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, the original Apple ad showcases a society under the watchful eye of a “Big Brother”-like figure, overruled by an authoritarian government. At the time, the commercial was positioned by Apple as a way to highlight the company as trying to bring “freedom” to consumers in a time when its main competitor, IBM, had a vast grip on the personal computing market.

Flash forward to 2020, and you can see how Epic Games is attempting to utilize its take on the “1984” ad to try and draw the same parallel to Apple, which has over 1.4 billion active devices around the world. At the end of the video, Epic Games closes out their message with the below statement, putting itself into the role of trying to break up the monopoly created by Apple on the app market:

“Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984.’ #FreeFortnite”

As one of the most popular games around the world, Epic Games is leveraging the success of Fortnite and its massive audience to put pressure on Apple and Google and loosen their hold on the app market. Given the timeliness of the video’s release, Epic knew that the game would likely be taken off mobile storefronts, and the “#FreeFortnite” campaign is aiming to gather players together to hit back against Apple and Google on social media.

Though the battle royale game has been available for nearly three years on most gaming platforms, Fortnite continues to have a huge playerbase and draws an immense amount of revenue for Epic and platform holders. Likewise, the game is also planned to come to PS5 and Xbox Series X later this year, extending its reach even further.


What is the lawsuit by Epic Games about?

In the ensuing fallout from Fortnite‘s removal from the App Store and Google Play Store, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against both Apple and Google shortly afterward. According to the legal documentation alongside the lawsuits, Epic Games’ main case against Apple and Google is that the companies are in breach of antitrust measures by creating vast monopolies in the app market that especially harm smaller and independent developers. In particular, Epic’s lawsuit against Apple states that the company has “unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolize both markets and prevent software developers from reaching the over one billion users of its mobile devices.”

For the most part, Epic is trying to position its claims against Apple and Google and their fees that are currently in place on its mobile marketplaces, which are significantly higher than other platforms such as desktop software platforms. Epic is primarily looking for ways that itself and other developers can implement alternative payment options (and resulting competition), which currently feels stifled by the 30% cut that Apple and Google take from marketplace revenue and their increasingly stringent guidelines on what apps are and aren’t allowed to be hosted on their platforms, and how they can operate.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has especially been critical of Apple’s practices and guidelines on the App Store, which has been seen as overly restrictive in order to give Apple full control of which apps it distributes. Likewise, Apple and Google have also been involved in a major antitrust hearing in Congress alongside two of its other major tech competitors, Amazon and Facebook. The four companies’ CEOs testified before Congress in July 2020 in response to investigations surrounding their business practices and antitrust, with each of the companies accused of actively stifling and diminishing competition.

While the case from Epic Games is the most prominent example of it, Apple has come under scrutiny before when it comes to issues involving the games industry. In the past few weeks alone, Apple has come under criticism regarding its decision to block Microsoft’s xCloud from coming to iOS devices. While the service was in a beta period for some time on iOS , xCloud was officially confirmed to only be coming to Android devices in September. Presumably, the issues surrounding xCloud appearing on iOS and the App Store is that Apple would have limited control over the revenue being taken in by game purchases on the platform, along with its strict policies around remote desktop clients.


What happens next?

Right now, it’s unclear at the moment in regard to the outcome of the pending lawsuits between Epic Games and Apple/Google. Going into this situation, Epic Games clearly prepared to essentially go to war against Apple and Google, and with the conflict now wrapped up in legal proceedings, it’s unlikely to have any kind of solution immediately.

For the short-term, that means it’s highly unlikely we’ll see the mobile versions of Fortnite getting any updates or new content, such as the upcoming launch of Chapter 2 – Season 4, alongside the console and PC versions of the game. Though the game is available on a wide array of platforms, obviously this will be a big hit for players that primarily (or exclusively) play the game on mobile devices.

That being said, the long-term implications of Epic’s lawsuit against Apple and Google could potentially have huge effects not only on the publisher, but for the app ecosystems of both iOS and Android users itself. Epic and Fortnite are one of the few forces that can potentially bring changes to the marketplace by fighting for a more favorable business environment for app developers. Clearly, this situation is a battle among giants, and the ultimate outcome could have major ramifications for the rest of the industry. So, for now, we’ll have to see who comes out on top in this battle royale of a corporate feud.