In a move that leaves developer Epic Games as the latest in a series of recent high-profile bans being undertaken by Apple, the tech behemoth removed Fortnite from the App Store over Epic’s violation of the App Store’s terms of service.
The ban comes just days after Microsoft ended its testing program for an iOS version of its xCloud streaming gaming service, caused primarily by a clash between the tech giants over Apple’s store policies which made testing of the service nearly impossible, and which would have ultimately made viability of the game-streaming service impossible. In fact, Microsoft wasn’t even first among equals to run into issues with its game-streaming service. Google’s Stadia hasn’t made it to the app store and Apple devices for much the same reasons. In the case of Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia, Apples restrictive testing policies were cited as being a primary cause for the falling out.
Microsoft is far from the first company to run into serious challenges with developing an app for the iPhone, only to have the app not be approved due to running afoul of Apple’s restrictive development guidelines. However, the ban on Fortnite, which is a perennial best-seller on the App store, is a drastically different situation.
We heard it first from 9to5mac.com that Epic released an update to Fortnite which added an option to make in-app purchases. While it is fairly commonplace to see in-app purchases for games, especially on mobile devices, Epic ran into trouble with Apple because the new update for its in-app purchases allowed users to circumvent Apple’s payment system.
One of the (many) terms for apps to be listed in the app store? All in-app purchases must be processed through the In-App Purchase provided by Apple. The reason for this requirement comes down to Apple’s collection of a hefty 30% commission on all sales through the App-Store and In-App Purchase functions.
Epic sought to circumvent the fee and pass along the savings to its players, with pricing for in-game currency, known and “V-bucks” reflecting a roughly 20 % discount off their app-store pricing. By enabling in-app purchases using its own payment platform, Epic is able to circumvent Apple’s commission collection and give the savings back the the players.
In a statement from Apple to The Verge, they had this to say about Epic’s move:
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. 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.
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. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.Source : The Verge
Epic’s Fortnite update was not exclusive to its iOS version of the game, with an updated Android version rolling out at the same time. Google ultimately took similar action to Apple, and also removed the Fortnite app from the Play Store. According to The Verge, a spokesperson for Google stated “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.”
What makes the Apple situation more frustrating for Fortnite players and would-be players is that, while Android users still have the option of downloading the Android version without having to go through the Play Store. Because of Apple’s much more restrictive operating environment, obtaining and installing unapproved third-party software outside of the App store is difficult for many, and impossible for most.
In response to the ban, Epic filed a “Complaint for Injunctive Relief” against Apple in the US District Court, Northern District of California, seeking an injunction against Apple in removing the Fortnite app to demand its restoration to the app store and seeking relief from the court, and arguing that Apple’s actions are “monopolistic” and anti-competitive in nature, and making numerous charges of anti-trust violations. (Read the entire 65-page filing here.)
Fortunately fans of Fortnite who had the game downloaded prior to the ban, the copies that are already installed are safe. However, Apple players will ultimately be unable to get any game updates until Fortnite is restored to the app store. Its impossible to say how many weeks or months could pass before any sort of a resolution is reached.
The good news for Android users is that, while they may not be able to currently get the game and its updates via the Play store, the unrestricted ability of developers of 3rd-party software to push software via other pathways means that Android users will suffer no more than a minor inconvenience.
What do you think of Apple’s ban on Fortnite over this? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below and keep the conversation going!