Fortnite has been removed from Apple and Google’s mobile app stores after the game’s developer tried to circumvent store fees.
The feud blew up suddenly on Friday morning following the start of a new marketing campaign for Fortnite’s micro-transactions currency ‘V-Bucks’.
Players use V-Bucks are to buy character and weapons skins.
Fortnite’s developer, Epic Games, announced it would lower the cost of its V-Bucks by 20 per cent for all users – pointing mobile players toward “a new way to pay on iOS and Android: Epic direct payments”.
“When you choose to use Epic direct payments, you save up to 20% as Epic passes along payment processing savings to you,” the marketing material said.
Shortly after, Apple removed the immensely popular game from its App Store for breaching its terms of service.
“Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple,” Apple said in statement.
“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 quickly responded with a video mocking Apple’s classic 1984 ad and filed a lawsuit against the tech giant for what it calls “anti-competitive and monopolistic practices”.
“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” Epic said.
“Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolise both markets and prevent software developers from reaching the over one billion users of its mobile devices … unless they go through a single store controlled by Apple, the App Store, where Apple exacts an oppressive 30% tax on the sale of every app.”
Clearly, Epic expected Apple to remove Fortnite and got this lawsuit ready in advance. Epic picked a fight on purpose. I wonder if Google is going to jump in. I'm sure Epic has a Google lawsuit prepped, too. https://t.co/fXdrzisuKx— Ryan Whitwam (@RyanWhitwam) August 13, 2020
Then it was Google’s turn – the company pulled Fortnite from the Google Play Store and Epic filed an injunction against Google.
Those court filings once again cited anti-competitive behaviour and the desire to see Google fulfil its promise of creating “an open, competitive Android ecosystem for all users and industry participants”.
A Google spokesperson told Information Age Android lets developers distribute games on numerous 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,” the spokesperson said via email.
“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."
According to the Epic court documents, Google has previously sought to “placate Epic by offering it preferential terms on side deals, such as YouTube sponsorships and cloud services” if it continued to pay the 30 per cent tax on micro-transactions.
“But Epic is not interested in any side deals that might benefit Epic alone while leaving Google’s anti-competitive restraints intact,” the game developer said.
“Instead, Epic is focused on opening up the Android ecosystem for the benefit of all developers and consumers.”
Epic's offer to Google and Apple is simple: reach equilibrium with their direct purchase 20% discount, and they'll talk. That math means Epic wants them to reduce their cut from 30% to 10% ($2 less revenue for every $10 earned). That is aggressive.— David "bury me with my golden arm" Ruddock (@RDRv3) August 13, 2020
Apple and Google fronted up to US Congress last month for an antitrust hearing that is investigating if large technology companies should be broken up.
Epic was obviously prepared for the fight against the tech giants – it had the ad and court documents ready for when its V-Bucks campaign would trigger Apple and Google to remove Fortnite from their stores.
And Epic encouraged its customers to join the fight against the tech giants using the #FreeFortnite hashtag on social media.
Over 350 million people play Fortnite, according to Epic, but the company remains secretive about just how much money it makes through the immensely popular shooter.
Industry analysts estimate the game’s sales were slowing, raking in some $2.5 billion in 2019 compared to an estimated $3.3 billion the year prior.
Epic has said those estimates did not “align with reality”.
Chinese tech giant Tencent has a 40 per cent stake in Epic Games and is currently staring down the barrel of a Donald Trump executive order banning transactions with Tencent through its social media app ecosystem WeChat.