Apple and Google banned Fornite from their respective app stores on Thursday (August 13) after the game developer introduced a payment system that circumvented their fees. Within minutes, the developer retaliated with legal action.
Thus it seems clear that Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite and several other video games, orchestrated Thursday's events in advance to initiate a public battle over what it calls "monopolistic" practices on the part of Apple and Google.
The developer, which is 40% owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, introduced a new payment mechanism within Fornite on Thursday morning. It allows gamers to purchase its in-game currency directly, at a lower rate than if they bought it through Apple and Google's in-app purchase framework. All apps are required to use Apple's and Google's respective payment systems, so this violation led both companies to ban Fortnite from their app stores.
Apple was the first to act, and within minutes of the ban, Epic Games announced it was taking legal action against the iPhone maker over its alleged anti-competitive practices.
Epic Games has filed legal papers in response to Apple, read more here: https://t.co/c4sgvxQUvb— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
The lawsuit noted that Apple’s removal of Fortnite is "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."
Specifically, Epic Games called out the "exorbitant" and "oppressive" 30% cut that Apple takes of all in-app purchases.
Shortly after announcing the lawsuit, Epic Games released a video across social media and inside Fortnite Party Royale. It adopts the style of Apple’s seminal "1984" commercial, but presents Apple as the "Big Brother"-type character and rallying followers to #FreeFortnite.
The video declares: "Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984’. #FreeFortnite."
Google followed Apple by banning Fortnite from its Play Store, unleashing Epic Games' second lawsuit. The lawsuit also calls into question Google's alleged anti-competitive practices.
Playing off the company’s "Don’t be evil" mantra, the lawsuit alleges Google is using its size "to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize".
Consumers can still download Fortnite on Android phones using other app stores, such as the Galaxy Store for Samsung devices.
Fortnite is one of the most popular games ever made, and it has seen usage spike during Covid-19. In May it announced it had surpassed 350 million players worldwide, with gamers logging 3.2 billion hours of play time in April alone.