Epic Games Sues Apple for Removing Fortnite From App Store

  • Epic Games added a direct payment option for Fortnite in-game purchases
  • Apple requires in-app payments to go through Apple and kicked Fortnite from the store
  • Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple for monopolistic practices
  • Google also removed Fortnite from its store, but the game can still be sideloaded
Woman playing Fortnite on an Apple iPad
Epic Games has sued Apple for monopolistic practices after Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store because Epic added a direct in-game payment option. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Epic introduced direct pay option

Fortnite developer Epic Games is at war with Apple. On Thursday, Epic Games launched the Fortnite Mega Drop, introducing its own in-game payment option for the in-game currency V-Bucks and other real-money purchases. As an incentive, players receive a 20% discount for using Epic direct payment. Apple retaliated by removing Fortnite from the App Store, an action to which Epic responded with a lawsuit.

new players cannot start playing on iOS

Anyone who already has Fortnite on iOS can still play, but with Fortnite not available in the App Store, nobody can redownload it to a new device and new players cannot start playing on iOS. Additionally, existing players will not be able to receive game updates.

Google has also removed Fortnite from the Google Play store, but it does not appear Epic has sued in this instance, likely because it is still possible for gamers to download the app. The Android version of the game can be downloaded with Epic’s own app launcher and then sideloaded onto a device.

It is evident that Epic knew what Apple’s reaction to the payment workaround was going to be, as the developer already had a “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” video prepared, a take on Apple’s famous Macintosh commercial that aired during Super Bowl XVIII in 1984. This time, however, Apple is the villain instead of the hero.

Apple says Epic violated store agreement

Apple booted Fortnite because the company claims that by accepting payments directly, Epic violated the App Store guidelines, which requires the use of Apple’s in-app purchase functionality. Apple takes a 30% fee from purchases, as does Google. Epic still offers Apple and Google payment options, but juxtaposes them with the Epic direct payment option that includes a 20% discount.

“Epic believes that you have a right to save money thanks to using more efficient, new purchase options,” the developer said in a blog post titled #FreeFortnite. “Apple’s rules add a 30% tax on all of your purchases, and they punish game developers like us who offer direct payment options.”

Epic also said that if Apple and Google decide to lower their fees later, Epic will pass on the savings to the customer.

these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users.”

In a statement to The Verge, Apple said that Epic agreed to the store’s terms “freely” and did not have its new feature approved by Apple.

“The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement,” Apple said, “does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users.

V-Bucks for loot boxes

Though Fortnite’s mega-popular Battle Royale mode is free-to-play, it’s in-game virtual currency, V-Bucks, is purchased with real money. V-Bucks can be used to buy cosmetic items for a player’s character, such as outfits and emotes. They are also used to purchase a Battle Pass, a tiered challenge system that allows players to acquire more cosmetic items.

Players can also buy “Llama Pinatas” in the “Save the World” co-op PVE version of Fortnite using V-Bucks. Llama Pinatas are Fortnite’s form of loot boxes and in this case, the items do help players advance in the game. But since Save the World is not a player-versus-player mode, there is no real competitive advantage over others by spending money like there would be in Battle Royale.

For several years, critics of the video game industry – even Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney – have likened loot boxes to gambling. Players in most games that offer loot boxes can buy them with real money (or buy in-game currency with real money in order to buy the loot boxes) and then try to get lucky with whatever random items the loot box produces. One of the fears is that this random rewards system can lead to addictive behaviors, especially in children who are often the target market for the games.

In response to criticisms, Epic changed its Llama system last year, introducing X-Ray Llamas. X-Ray Llamas show the player what is inside them before the player spends V-Bucks. If the player doesn’t like the contents, they can wait until the next day when the contents are re-rolled.