Why Fortnite was removed from the App Store on iOS

'Fortnite Battle Royale' developed by Epic Games on a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 smartphone (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
'Fortnite Battle Royale' developed by Epic Games on a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 smartphone (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images) /

Apple has removed Epic Games’ Fortnite from the App Store, here’s why.

Get ready for a legal slugfest. Earlier today (Thursday, August 13), Epic Games implemented its own in-app payment system in Fortnite. The move allowed players of the popular battle royale game to purchase V-Bucks — the in-game currency —  directly from Epic Games.

More importantly, it allowed Epic Games to effectively bypass the 30 percent cut Apple takes off the top of each transaction. Epic then passed a portion of these savings onto its player base, offering a permanent discount on V-bucks and other cash purchases of up to 20 percent.

Following the update, a player looking to purchase 1,000 V-Bucks in Fortnite was presented with two payment options. They could choose to pay through the Apple App Store for the regular price of $9.99. Or they could do an “Epic direct payment” and with the discount only pay $7.99. Obviously, the latter is the better deal.

While this could easily be viewed as a greedy power play by Epic, the company did promise these savings would be passed on to consumers. The price of V-Bucks on consoles and PC has also been permanently discounted by up to 20 percent and Epic promised, “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”

Basically, Epic won’t be pocketing the extra money if Apple lowers its fee. They’ll be passing the savings on to consumers. Now technically, this lower price could, in turn, spur more purchases so it’s not like there’s no motivation for Epic here.

Increased sales aside, Epic’s revenue per purchase would remain the same. The only real loser here would be Apple by not getting as much money from its fee.

As you can imagine, Apple didn’t like this very much. Citing violations of the App Store guidelines, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store. Here is the official statement provided to The Verge:

"Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. 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."

Apple has been under some intense scrutiny of late as a result of its 30 percent fee on all purchases. It’s currently subject to an antitrust investigation in the EU. It also underwent a Congressional hearing in the United States for potential antitrust violations.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been one of the most vocal critics of Apple (and Google), arguing against its exorbitant fees. In July he tweeted:

Following Fortnite‘s removal, Epic announced that it had filed legal papers against Apple. The crux of the argument is against “Apple’s use of a series of anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices in markets.”

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Basically, there are a number of markets in which software developers can sell their products on an Apple personal computer; however, with the iPhone or iPad, there are no other options. You must go through the App Store. As a result, developers are subject to Apple’s “oppressive terms and conditions,” such as the 30 percent tax.

While Epic looks like the hero here, championing for lower fees that could help smaller developers, it’s important to note that the publisher is no saint either. How many dances have they stolen from artists over the years and turned into purchasable emotes without so much of paying the creators a dime? But that’s a whole other conversation to be had.

Now, I’m obviously not a lawyer so I don’t know how this one will play out. It’s certainly a compelling argument though, and one we’ve seen made by certain U.S. representatives. Has Apple displayed anti-competitive conduct with its App Store? Is it technically a monopoly? Smarter people than me will battle it out in court.

In the meantime, Fortnite is no longer available to download through the App Store on iOS. Those who already have it downloaded can still access the game and even still use Epic’s in-app payment system. It’s unclear what will happen with future updates, however.