Apple has removed Epic Games’ battle royale game Fortnite from the App Store after the developers implemented the app's own in-app payment system.
This bypassed Apple's standard 30% fee. If that is not enough to annoy Apple, the move by Epic happened after Apple started a war with major gaming companies, which got some of them kicked out of Apple's ecosystem.
It also comes at a time when Apple maker navigates antitrust concerns over its operation of the App Store and the rules it imposes on certain developers.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the feud between Epic and Apple.
Following the removal, Epic publicized a series of responses, which approach seems to be designed to provoke Apple.
They include an antitrust lawsuit seeking to establish Apple’s App Store as a monopoly and a protest video that aired on YouTube and within Fortnite itself mocking the iPhone maker’s iconic “1984” ad and calling on gaming fans to #FreeFortnite by supporting its fight against Apple.
Apple said in a statement to Epic violated its policy, and plans to work with the developer to resolve this issue. But Apple stressed that it has no intention to give Epic a "special arrangement":
"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."
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices.
Visit https://t.co/K3S07w5uEk and join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming "1984" https://t.co/tpsiCW4gqK
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
But due to Epic's aggressive move by suing Apple, the Cupertino-based company stepped up its defense by planning to terminate all of Epic's accounts on Apple, and cut it off from iOS and Mac development tools on August 28
Apple has officially responded stating that they “very much want” Epic to remain an Apple developer. To Apple, Epic has been one of the most successful developers on its App Store, growing into a multibillion dollar business that reaches million of iOS customers around the world.
"We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. The problem that Epic has created for itself is one that can be easily remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers," wrote Apple.
Epic shared the update on Twitter, calling the removal of its account a “retaliation” for filing a lawsuit against Apple.
Epic claims that beyond harming “millions of innocent consumers worldwide” who play Fortnite and its other games, Apple terminating Epic's developer account is a threat to its Unreal Engine.
In the lawsuit, Epic is said to not seek any monetary compensation from the Court for the injuries it has suffered. Epic also isn't seeking favorable treatment for itself, as a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in the market that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.
Epic didn't stop there, as the developer also implemented its own payment system inside its Android version of Fortnite.
Google that also requires apps to use the Google Play system for in-app purchases, isn't happy about Epic's decision, and quickly kicked the game out of its Play Store.
Fortnite is currently unavailable on Google Play. More information will be forthcoming soon.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 14, 2020
Both Apple and Google have policies that apply equally to all developers.
Both companies provide the platform and the tools to distribute apps. Both also provide the ways for developers to reach billions of users.
In return, the two expect 30% cut in any in-app purchases made by users. Developers of both platforms need to accept this policy if they want to have their apps inside Apple's App Store and Google Play Store.
But Epic wanted a shortcut to bypass Apple and Google payment requirement. Using its own in-app payment system, the Fortnite update allows players to buy in-game currency at a lower rate because they can buy them directly from Epic with no cuts.
Epic appeared to know the ban would come, announcing that it had filed a legal complaint minutes after the removal.
Later, the judge has ruled on the injunction for the two companies to take the middle ground. To quote the legal document, “the Court grants in part and denies in part Epic’s motion for a temporary restraining order.”
Specifically, the court grants that Apple cannot cut Epic off from supporting the Unreal Engine on its platform, as the contract Epic is violating isn't related to the developer agreement. What this means, Apple cannot deny Epic's existence in its platform.
The court denies grant for Epic to get free access to Apple's platform while it continues to make money from Fortnite.
“While the Court anticipates experts will opine that Apple’s 30 percent take is anti-competitive, the Court doubts that an expert would suggest a zero percent alternative. Not even Epic Games gives away its products for free.”
This case isn't the first time for Epic.
In the past, the developer has had a history of messing with Google over its Play Store rule. Back in August 2018 for example, Epic pulled pulled Fortnite from the Google Play Store and began distributing it directly. That is only possible because Android allows installs from third-party sources, though it does make that process seem a bit dangerous.
About a year later, Epic returned to Google Play Store.