January 26, 2021
Fortnite maker Epic's battle with Apple and Google is about making them into villains

Apple officially kicks Fortnite off the iPhone, iPad, banning Epic’s developer account



Apple’s battle with Fortnite’s developer just got a little more epic. Apple ratcheted up pressure on Epic Games Friday, banning the company’s developer account, effectively cutting it off from updating its Fortnite game on iPhones and iPads.

Apple and Epic are locked in a battle over money and power, and who gets to have them. Apple charges commissions of up to 30% from digital items bought through apps on its platform, including the silly clothes and popular dances Fortnite players buy for their characters that contribute to the billions of dollars the game’s pulled in so far. Epic, which makes the popular online last-man-standing battle game, circumvented Apple’s rules on Aug. 13 when it turned on hidden code within Fortnite to allow players to send direct payments to Epic.

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Epic v. Apple kicks off in court


Apple retaliated by kicking Fortnite off the app store. Epic retaliated with a lawsuit and public relations campaign against Apple, including a #FreeFortnite game tournament and a video mocking the company’s iconic “1984” Macintosh Computer commercial.

A California judge overseeing the case between the two companies declined to stop Apple from banning Epic’s account from its app store. Apple had said in court proceedings, and in public statements earlier, that it is willing to reinstate Epic’s account if the company removes the changes from Fortnite while the two companies debate it at trial.

“The court recommended that Epic comply with the App Store guidelines while their case moves forward, guidelines they’ve followed for the past decade until they created this situation. Epic has refused,” the company said, adding that Epic “repeatedly” submitted updates that still violated its guidelines. “We hope that we can work together again in the future, but unfortunately that is not possible today.”

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney criticized Apple’s statement, saying the company didn’t have to ban Epic’s account. He also shared an attempted Fortnite update submitted to Apple, saying it would continue to offer alternative payment options. 

A similar but less public dynamic is playing out between Epic and Google, though the Fortnite maker’s lawsuit in that case hasn’t yet held its first hearing.

Apple’s decision escalates pressure on Epic, whose Fortnite game counts more than 250 million people who’ve signed up to play between computers, phones, tablets and video game consoles. The game’s become a cultural phenomenon, played by sports stars like baseball pitcher Josh Hader and musicians including Drake. Part of its popularity comes from its cartoonish feel, which makes it more palatable to parents, its easy-to-play-hard-to-master gameplay, and its newfound role as a new sort of social network for teens.

Though Epic is one of the largest companies to fight Apple over its App Store policies, it isn’t the first. A growing list of companies have bristled at Apple’s up to 30% commission, including Facebook. On Friday, the social network said Apple rejected an update to one of its apps that inform users of Apple’s “tax.” (Apple has criticized Facebook over its ad tracking practices for the past couple years, and implemented new technology changes in its upcoming iPhone software that could hurt Facebook’s business.)

Apple said although it’s banned Epic’s account for developing Fortnite, it will allow the company’s other legal entity that makes the Unreal Engine tools for game developers to continue using the app store.

The two companies are expected to meet in court again next month.

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