Apple, Google remove Fortnite from app stores

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on August 14, 2020

Move comes after the app makers snuck in an update that lets users purchase in-game currency at a lower rate directly

Apple and Google on Thursday removed Fortnite from their respective app stores after the makers Epic Games snuck in an update that lets users purchase in-game currency at a lower rate directly from the makers. As part of the update, Epic Games introduced its own in-game payments system bypassing Apple and Google.

As a result Apple removed the app from its app store and issued a statement justifying its action.

“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,” Apple said in an official statement, as quoted in The Verge.

“We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store,” it added.

Epic Games’ retaliation

In retaliation, Epic Games, within minutes, announced that it had taken legal action against Apple, challenging the tech giant’s “anti-competitive” behaviour.

“Apple has blocked Fortnite from the App Store, removing everyone’s ability to install and update the game on iOS devices, while instructing Epic to “remove the ‘Epic direct payment’ feature”. Apple is keeping prices high so they can collect 30 per cent of your payments, and is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to you,” it said in an official release.

It has also begun a #FreeFortnite social media campaign urging users to tweet asking Apple to unblock the app.

“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear,” Epic Games said in its lawsuit against Apple.

“This case concerns Apple’s use of a series of anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices in markets,” it said.

The gaming giant is seeking injunctive relief “to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.”

Epic said that it was “directly harmed” by Apple’s “anti-competitive conduct.”

Both Apple and Google require app developers to mandatorily use their in-app payment systems. Apple, in cases of apps that use its payments system, takes a 30 per cent cut for its own. Google too has a similar system for gaming apps.

Google follows suit

Hours later, Google also took down Fortnite from its app store.“Developers offering products within a game downloaded on Google Play or providing access to game content must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment,” read Google’s policies for developers.

“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,” Google said in a statement.

Other major tech players including Netflix, Spotify and Amazon in the past have raised a similar issue regarding Apple taking 30 per cent from developers.

As for Fortnite, it remains available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, GeForce Now. Players using the older version of the app can still play on iOS devices but they will lose certain features once they install the latest update. The app is available on Android phones through Epic Games' own launcher.

Published on August 14, 2020

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