Updated: After Apple pulled Fortnite from its App Store, Google also removed the gamefrom its Google Play Store. A google spokesman provided Rolling Stone with the following statement: “The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and 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. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.” Epic Games didn’t immediately reply to comment on Google’s decision.
Thursday has been a whirlwind. First, Apple announced it was removing the popular video game Fortnite from its App Store for allegedly violating its payment system — then, within hours, Fortnite‘s parent company Epic Games fired back by filing a lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging that Apple has monopolized the distribution market on its App Store.
This particular Apple/Epic dispute began when Epic updated Fortnite to include a new option in the app to purchase V-Bucks, Fortnite’s virtual currency, directly through Epic instead of through the App Store for $2 cheaper. Epic said the cheaper price point is possible because without the 30% tax, the company can lower costs. But, claiming that this violated Apple’s commerce rules on the App Store, Apple removed the app.
“Epic respectfully requests this Court to enjoin Apple from continuing to impose its anti-competitive restrictions on the iOS ecosystem and ensure 2020 is not like ‘1984,’” Epic said in its lawsuit, referencing Apple’s famous ‘1984’ Macintosh advertisement, which itself references George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
In tandem with the lawsuit, Epic also premiered a new short in the game today called “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite,” directly taking shot at the Apple ad.
Epic Games isn’t seeking any monetary damages in the suit, but rather the said it wants an enforcement against Apple to “end dominance over key technology markets, open up the space for progress and ingenuity, and ensure that Apple mobile devices are open to the same competition as Apple’s personal computers.” Fortnite shared the suit on its Twitter account to more than 11 million followers, many of whom are popular gamers.
As part of the policy third-party developers are subject to when offering applications on the App Store, developers pay a 30% tax on every sale made on (and in) their app back to Apple. Such an agreement is oppressive, Epic claims, stating that with Apple controlling the sole store option for iOS users, Apple exerts too much control over the market. The more open market on Apple’s Mac devices calls for a 3% tax, Epic said.
Epic’s claims come as Apple faces increased scrutiny from antitrust officials investigating the largest companies in Silicon Valley over potentially anticompetitive practices.
The results of this lawsuit could be a major precedent for how commerce commences on the app for everyone — from the smallest developers to major players like Spotify. Spotify, the largest music streamer and a competitor to Apple Music, has publicly complained about the App Store policy and removed the feature to even purchase a premium subscription through the App Store; customers with iOS devices purchase subscriptions on Spotify’s website instead. Spotify previously filed similar antitrust complaints against Apple in Europe.
In Epic’s lawsuit, the company called Fortnite’s removal “yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market.”
Fortnite has been carving out a niche for itself in the music industry through the fast-growing livestreaming space as artists including Travis Scott and Marshmello have taken to the game for virtual concerts. Scott’s popular “Astronomical” concert, in which he debuted his song “The Scotts,” helped slingshot the song to a Number One debut on the Rolling Stone Top 100 Songs chart.
When reached for comment, an Apple rep tells Rolling Stone: “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… 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.”