- Epic Games sued Apple on Thursday, accusing it of engaging in anticompetitive behaviour through its App Store.
- It filed the legal paperwork after Apple pulled “Fortnite” from the App Store. The company said Epic violated App Store guidelines by offering a new way to make in-app purchases that bypassed the controversial 30% fee charged by Apple’s and Google’s app stores.
- Epic announced earlier on Thursday that players would get a permanent 20% discount on V-Bucks, the in-game currency in “Fortnite,” if they paid directly through Epic.
- It’s the latest escalation in a battle between app developers and the tech giants, particularly Apple. Developers and lawmakers alike have criticised Apple for taking a large cut of purchases made in the apps in their stores and wielding power over developers.
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Epic Games, the company behind “Fortnite,” filed an injunction against Apple on Thursday, accusing it of engaging in anticompetitive behaviour via its App Store.
Earlier Thursday, the gaming company announced the ability to make in-game purchases directly through Epic, bypassing the 30% cut Apple and Google take from in-app purchases. In response, Apple pulled “Fortnite” from the App Store, with Google’s Play Store following suit later in the day.
An Apple representative told Business Insider that “Fortnite” was removed after Epic “took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines.” Google told Business Insider that it could “no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies.”
The escalation is the latest development in an ongoing battle over the power that Google and Apple wield over app makers, which has developers and lawmakers alike criticising the tech giants’ policies.
“Apple’s removal of 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,” Epic’s complaint reads.
Shortly after Apple removed “Fortnite” from its store, it also launched a short film titled “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite,” a scathing parody of Apple’s famous “1984” commercial.
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices.
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
Here’s Apple’s statement in full:
“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 have 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.”
Bypassing Apple and Google
The issue stems from an offer Epic announced on Thursday called the “Fortnite Mega Drop”: a permanent 20% discount on V-Bucks, the in-game currency in “Fortnite.”
The new prices are available on PCs and consoles but not necessarily on mobile: Epic said that because Apple and Google take a 30% cut of purchases made within their app stores, it couldn’t provide the 20% discount for gamers who pay through those stores.
Instead, Epic directed players to use its direct payment system “to get the best deal on V-Bucks and real-money purchases.”
In an FAQ page on Epic’s website, the company said it was offering the new payment options to provide more choice to players and to pass along savings to them.
“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,” the company said.
Epic added: “Clearly Apple acknowledges that third party payment services are safe and acceptable for goods and services.”
An ongoing battle
Epic has sparred with the companies behind the major app stores before.
Earlier this year, the company gave in to Google after a months-long battle over the Google Play Store. Epic had initially refused to offer “Fortnite” through the Play Store, instead offering the game to Android users via a direct download from Epic’s website. But Epic eventually acquiesced to Google, saying that the company “puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage” by classifying it as malware and citing nonexistent security issues, according to The Verge.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has also spoken out about Apple’s policies, saying in a tweet last month that the company had “gone crazy.”
“Apple has no right to take any per cent of any company’s revenue just because they made the phone people use to access the stuff,” Sweeney tweeted.
Epic’s latest changes signal a growing animosity between app developers and Apple’s App Store in particular. Developers have long argued that Apple wields too much power over developers and demands too high a cut of in-app purchases. Most recently, the email app Hey was barred from the App Store after it refused to stop directing users outside the store to pay the app’s $US99 annual subscription fee.
Apple’s treatment of app developers has also come under scrutiny from Congress; lawmakers on the House antitrust subcommittee recently questioned Apple CEO Tim Cook about whether Apple’s practices constituted anticompetitive behaviour.
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