Epic Games Fortnite is one of the most popular video games today. By March of 2019, Fortnite had gathered an astounding 250 million players globally. Fortnite recently came to an end with its season 10. With the season end, both Apple and Google removed one of the world’s most popular games from their app store and play store.
The entire controversy started when Epic Games announced on Thursday, 13 August 2020, that it will offer a permanent 20% discount on Fortnite’s in-game currency if players purchased them directly from Epic’s official website. Players use a special type of digital currency, called V-Bucks, within Fortnite to purchase skins and other virtual goods in the game. With this announcement, Epic Games had taken a bold step. Epic games tried to provide a direct approach for users to buy Fortnite directly from them. They bypassed Google and Apple app store guidelines, which these companies have followed for years. If Apple or Google lower their share on payments then Epic will be able to pass along the savings to their players.
According to Apple and Google’s in-app payment rules, developers are required to give a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases on digital goods. The cut is only lowered to 15 percent for long-term subscriptions of at least a year. Epic CEO, Tim Sweeney publicly criticized both Apple and Google for their practices and this unjustified cut from the developer’s revenue. The 30 percent cut earns Google and Apple millions in revenue. This excessive cut snatches the rightful profit share from the actual manufacturers and developers of the game itself.
However, with the Fortnite removal from both these platforms, Epic responded with a filed case against Apple. The Epic Games CEO, Tim Sweeney stated:
“Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet, one more example of Apple flexing its enormous power so as to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS in-app payment processing market.”
It looks like Tim Sweeney has taken it upon himself to fight against these monopolies who have long ruled the industry. He has justified his argument saying, if companies such as Visa and Mastercard, charge just 3 percent as processing fee then this 30 percent cut is not at all justifiable. To aggravate the situation a little further, Epic released a video making fun of Apple’s iconic ‘1984’ ad and making Apple the villain of the industry. It also flung Google’s ‘Don’t Be Evil’ slogan back at the tech company, and accused the firm of getting “relegated its motto to just about an afterthought.” Epic Games, looks like took the removal of their mainstay game to heart and was quite open about it as well.
Why Was Fortnite Removed From Apple and Google App Stores?
Apple responded to the entire drama saying that Epic has violated its App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments. “…that are applied equally to each developer and designed to stay the shop safe for our users.” Nonetheless, Apple is willing to figure with Epic to resolve the violations, so that, Fortnite can return to the App Store.
Google reasons for its Fortnite removal as well. Google clearly pointed out that developers choose Play store for distribution at their own discretion. Their policies are quite comprehensive detailing all their rules and regulations. Developers can choose to agree with them or not according to their own will without any intervention from Google itself. Google still seems forward with its response and more reluctant to bring Fortnite back on its platform. It must be kept in mind that Google only removed Fortnite from Play Store, it is still available on other distribution sites for players. Epic Games, however, does not agree with Google’s point of view and outraged against the insult, filed a lawsuit against Google.
Apple and Google, argue that this huge 30 percent is necessary for them to maintain their app stores and security. They have for long charged this cut as their rightful fee for its distribution facilities and market outreach. Going back to 2008, at the launch of the App Store, the Apple CEO, Steve Jobs explained, “Those free apps cost money to store and to deliver wirelessly. The paid apps cost money, too. They have to buy a number of free apps…” Epic says its own app store takes away smaller cut from app makers and players of just 12%. The CEO, Tim Sweeney sees this 88/12 revenue split as a more fair arrangement and not biased or monopolized. This is a rather fruitful strategy for Epic to bring more traffic to their App store and site. With over 250 million players, it is quite understandable that Epic can take such a stand for its game, Fortnite. Epic’s actions portray its confidence in their game; the game will be installed with or without App Store or Play store’s assistance.
“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.”
How Fortnite Removal has impacted Google and Apple Store?
According to an analysis report, Fortnite’s removal from the Play store can cost Google around $50 million this year in platform fees. The data collected from the app store intelligence firm, Sensor Tower states Fortnite has earned Apple more than $54 million in revenue, thanks to its 30 percent cut. Google and Apple will surely lose onto this revenue with Fortnite’s removal. This action of Epic games could create a chain reaction of rebellion. Other major game distributors watching Epic Games, could be inclined to judge if Google’s 30% cut policy is actually worth it for them. Fortnite may become a tip of the iceberg, a pioneer, for reducing Google Play’s impact on mobile gaming if other gaming companies also decide to release their own app stores for android. Gaming companies would be more liable to boycott or raise their voices against these monopolies and unjust cuts. This step taken by Epic games could prove to be a new revolutionary point for the gaming industry. To allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers, Epic aims to end the alleged ‘unfair and anticompetitive actions’.
Epic Games is suing Google
Just like Epic Games sued Apple, they are suing Google too over Fortnite removal from the Google Play store.
Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought,” the complaint alleges, “and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize
No more Cross-Platform play between Apple and Non-Apple platforms
Because of the conflicts between Epic and Apple, Fortnite players having Apple device are going to loose cross-play. A new season of Fortnite is arriving tomorrow. However, Apple users won’t be able to play it.
Apple is asking that Epic revert Fortnite to exclusively use Apple payments. Their proposal is an invitation for Epic to collude with Apple to maintain its monopoly over in-app payments on iOS, suppressing free-market competition, and inflating prices. As a matter of principle, we won’t participate in this scheme. You, as a mobile device owner, have the right to install apps from sources of your choosing. Software makers have the right to freely express their ideas and to compete in a fair marketplace. Apple’s policies take these freedoms away.
Masab Farooque is a Tech Geek, Writer, and Founder at The Panther Tech. He is also a lead game developer at 10StaticStudios.
When he is not writing, he is mostly playing video games