Video gaming phenomenon, Fortnite has been removed from both Apple and Google’s app stores after the game’s publisher Epic Games introduced a new method of making in-game purchases that avoid the tech giants’ own payment platforms.
Launched on Thursday this week, the games developer issued an update that meant players who purchase in-game items such as skins and weapons through its direct payment process would receive a 20 per cent discount, encouraging them to make their purchases outside of Apple and Google’s systems.
“Currently, when using Apple and Google payment options, Apple and Google collect a 30 percent fee and the up to 20 percent price drop does not apply,” the company wrote in a blog post published this week. “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”
Both Apple and Google retaliated to the move by removing Fortnite from their app stores within hours of the announcement. Apple said Epic had taken the “unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines”, while Google, in a statement issued yesterday, said that “we have consistent policies that are fair to developers to 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.”
Epic Games was quick to react to Apple’s removal with a lawsuit against the company, calling it a “behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation.” It said that its goal was to “end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions.” Epic is not seeking monetary compensation but 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, third party app developers.”
“Apple and Google run the operating systems of pretty much all of the phones in the world. That means they get to choose who can run apps on their stores, and who can’t. They also get to set the charges,” said the BBC’s technology reporter, James Calyton.
Many developers believe this 30 per cent charge of in-app purchases is unfair, and Epic Games is hoping for new rulings that would change the way Apple and Google run their app stores.
Epic Games has since taken the fight within the Fortnite game itself with the launch of an information campaign. At 1pm it played a video inside Fortnite that directly attacked Apple’s practices. The video was a parody of Apple’s 1984 commercial, as a colourful Fortnite player runs into a room where black and white figures are watching a video featuring a large talking apple. The players then uses her unicorn staff to destroy the screen. Epic then directed players to use the hashtag #FreeFortnite to show their support.
In a statement, an Apple spokesman said that Epic’s direct payment feature was not reviewed or approved by Apple.
“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.”
Thursday evening saw Epic also file a lawsuit against Google.
In a statement, Apple said the rules were applied equally to every developer but added that it would try to work with Epic to bring Fortnite back, but not without noting that:
“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.”