After its creator Epic Games implemented a workaround to duck Apple’s hefty developer fees, Fortnite has vanished from the App Store. The popular game’s disappearing act came the same day that Epic added a new direct payment option for in-game currency on mobile, offering an enticing 20% discount for players who pay the company for its virtual V-Bucks rather handing that money to intermediaries Apple or Google.
“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,” Epic wrote in a blog post introducing the new option. “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”
In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple confirms that it removed Fortnite for taking the “unfortunate step” of violating App Store rules:
Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.
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. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. 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.
Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney has attacked Apple repeatedly in recent tweets over the cut it takes on the App Store, calling its decisions deliberately anti-competitive and declaring that Apple has “outlawed the metaverse.” A spicy tweet on Fortnite’s Twitter account evoking authoritarianism and Apple’s own iconic 1984 commercial also suggests that Epic has no intention of backing down.
Epic also apparently just filed a legal complaint against Apple in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California arguing that Apple removing 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.”
In making the decision to add direct payments, a feature it calls “permanent,” Epic was well aware that removal from Apple’s marketplace was likely in the cards. By adding the new payment method anyway, the hit game maker is planting a flag in the recent roiling controversy over Apple’s App Store fees. What happens next in a showdown between Apple and such a prominent software maker is anyone’s guess, but we’ll be following this story as it develops.