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After rolling out direct payments that bypass the app stores, both Google and Apple have removed Fortnite Mobile from Google Play and the App Store — prompting Epic Games to launch the #FreeFortnite event and campaign.
On 13 August, Epic Games introduced discounts for in-game purchases. But they also introduced a way to buy directly from the publisher rather than using the app stores.
It did this to circumvent the 30% commission that the stores take on all purchases. It is the same payment system that Epic Games offers through the Epic Games mobile app, and it’s in-game store on PC, the PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One.
The move is viewed by some as an attempt to bring attention to the control Google and Apple have over the income of apps in their stores.
The issue is particularly pertinent for Apple, since iOS users cannot get from other stores or install apps downloaded directly from developers (except for Enterprise users).
However, Epic Games says that direct payment also allows it to provide discounts to customers.
“Epic believes that you have a right to save money thanks to using more efficient, new purchase options. Apple’s rules add a 30% tax on all of your purchases, and they punish game developers like us who offer direct payment options,” the publisher said in a statement.
Epic Games takes aim at Apple over Fortnite
In their press FAQ, Epic Games said that Apple sabotages consumer iOS devices, limits consumer choice, and forces developers to use their store.
“Apple intentionally sabotages consumer iOS devices to prevent users from installing software directly from developers, as consumers are free to do on PC and Mac. We know this is an intentional strategy because iOS does fully support installing software from the web — but only allows it for corporations,” the publisher said.
“Apple uses this direct-installation blockade in order to force consumers to use their App Store, and then demands that game developers use their payment processing service. By blocking consumer choice in software installation, Apple has created a problem so they can profit from the solution.”
According to Epic Games, Apple allows direct payments for many other apps. This different treatment of certain apps was part of the Big Tech antitrust hearing concerns last month.
During the hearing before the US Congress, Apple was accused of not treating all apps the same.
“Thousands of apps on the App Store are allowed by Apple to accept direct payments, including commonly used apps like Amazon, Grubhub, Nike SNKRS, Best Buy, DoorDash, Fandango, McDonalds, and StubHub,” Epic Games says.
“Apple is just blocking direct payments for certain products (like games) and companies (like Epic).”
Epic Games vs Google Play: Round two
This isn’t the first time Google and Epic Games have disagreed over the Google Play Store.
Epic initially refused to roll out Fornite’s mobile version on the Play Store due to the commission requirement. But earlier this year, Epic relented.
Seemingly, because Apple was the first to ban the Fortnite app, most of Epic’s response focuses on the iPhone maker.
It’s possible that further statements will also include its grievances with Google.
But Google allows users to download from other stores, such as the Samsung Galaxy Store. So the issue might not be as pressing for Epic Games.
What does this mean for Fortnite Mobile players?
For those who already have Fortnite installed on their mobile devices with Season 3’s 13.40 update, they will be able to continue playing until Chapter 2 – Season 4 begins.
This is because Epic Games will be unable to roll out the updates required to play the new season.
#FreeFortnite campaign begins
Epic Games has brought the issue to more than their mobile audience — playing a campaign video in other versions of the game.
A video cutscene for players and videos shared on social media lambast Apple for its decision. They use the format of Apple’s 1984 Superbowl commercial that advertised the launch of the Macintosh.
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
The fact that Epic Games had this video ready on the same day implies that the ban was expected.
While this is likely a marketing move to get more favourable terms for Epic, it comes amid increased scrutiny.
Apple’s treatment of gaming services and competing services is part of the antitrust concerns surrounding the company.
Microsoft also criticised Apple’s policies in recent weeks as they plan to roll out its xCloud gaming service.
These tech titan clashes are bringing antitrust issues that affect smaller competitors to the fore.
Feature image: Epic Games