Steven R. August 14, 2020
Three of the biggest companies in gaming are facing off in a battle that could change the entire industry.
Apple and Google are engaged in a fight with Fortnite publisher Epic Games that has seen the wildly popular battle royale banned from app stores. This is leading to legal action that could see Apple and Google's strangleholds over mobile developers permanently cemented, or a redefinition of how in-app purchases work.
But what started all this? What incensed Apple to the point where it would lock down the world’s most popular video game? And will Fortnite ever come back to Apple and Android devices?
Apple, Google Fortnite ban started with V-Bucks price drop
On August 13, Epic Games shipped a big update called the Fortnite Mega Drop. For Fortnite players on both Android and iOS devices, this included a new option when it came to purchasing the V-Bucks currency.
Users on both platforms were offered two choices when purchasing V-Bucks. Fortnite players could purchase 1,000 V-Bucks directly from Epic Games for $7.99, or they could buy 1,000 V-Bucks through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for $9.99. Players saw no benefit from spending the extra $2 on either app store.
For whatever reason, console players were not given the same sort of option.
This update served as a workaround to Apple's App Store and Google's Google Play Store, both of which pocket a certain percentage of the money spent on app purchases. Epic acknowledged this as the cause for the awkward situation for mobile Fortnite players.
“Currently, when using Apple and Google payment options, Apple and Google collect a 30% fee, and the up to 20% price drop does not apply. If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you,” Epic said in the update’s page.
Apple and Google ban Fortnite, Epic responds with lawsuit
Apple and Google didn’t take kindly to Epic cutting their stores out of the equation when it comes to purchases on their devices. Apple swiftly removed Fortnite from the App Store and Google followed suit just a few hours later.
This is a devastating blow to Fortnite fans who play on mobile devices.
Not only will new fans be unable to play the game on phones and tablets, but this will prevent established fans from updating their games for the indefinite future. Given the fact that Epic ships big updates to Fortnite on an almost weekly basis, this will either force mobile players to switch to other platforms or will force Epic to functionally maintain two separate versions of the game.
Epic didn’t bow to the rival tech juggernauts. Shortly after Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, Epic took legal action against Apple and then against Google.
Will Fortnite come back to Android and iOS?
Apple, Google, and Epic are all digging in their heels for this battle, but Fortnite likely won’t be disappearing from mobile devices forever, or potentially even for very long. All three companies are losing money with Fortnite being pulled off of these mobile stores, and all of them would rather have microtransactions coming in and generating more money.
The Fortnite Mega Drop was Epic Games showing that it didn’t need Google and Apple to have Fortnite be a success as the publisher essentially dared the mobile store owners to take action. The swiftness of the legal action against Apple suggests that Epic knew that they would respond by pulling Fortnite from their stores and had already prepared for the move.
Odds are that this entire ordeal is Epic trying to force Apple and Google into renegotiating their cuts of in-app purchases. If Epic can force either of the two tech giants to come down from their usual rates by even a small amount, it could translate into many millions of dollars over time.
Fortnite’s return to app stores is almost certainly a question of “when” and not “if." Fortnite players just hope that the answer will come before long.