Apple and Epic Games, the maker of popular video game Fortnite, are locked in one of the biggest feuds recently over the fee structure applied in Apple’s App Store. Unlike some other companies that stopped at “complaining” about the App Store fee structure, which charges developers a 30% fee on all payments, Epic Games went a few steps further by launching a new direct payment option outside of the App Store.
Two years ago, Epic rolled out Fortnite on Android but didn’t include it in Google’s Play Store, for similar reasons.
In August, Epic Games released the Fortnite “mega drop,” which offered a permanent discount on V-Bucks and other cash purchases in Fortnite up to 20%. Those were new prices for the in-app currency on PC and console platforms.
However, for the mobile version of the game, Epic launched a new direct payment option. For players who wanted to buy V-Bucks or something else in the game via the App Store or Play Store, the prices were the same as before. However, the new direct payment option offered a discount on cash purchases, which could be executed through either credit card or PayPal.
“Currently, there are no savings if players use Apple and Google payment options, where Apple and Google collect an exorbitant 30% fee on all payments,” Epic said at the time.
“If Apple and Google lower their fees on payments, Epic will pass along the savings to players.”
Shortly after Epic introduced the new payment system that evaded its 30% fee, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store. In response to the removal, Epic filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple to establish the App Store as a monopoly and rolled out a video on YouTube and Fortnite to make fun of the famous “1984” iPhone ad.
The game developer also asked its users to support it in its battle against Apple and #FreeFortnite. During that time, Apple said it wants to talk to Epic and “resolve these violations,” but it pointed out there will be no “special arrangement” for Epic Games.
Google followed Apple’s suit and also removed the game from the Play Store after the launch of Epic’s new payment system. However, Android users could still download Fortnite via Epic’s own app launcher, which can be accessed via any mobile web browser.
“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. 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,” a Google representative said at the time.
The Conflict Escalation
On September 8, Apple submitted a new filing to seek damages against Epic Games for violating the iOS App Store guidelines, in a new escalation of the legal battle between the two companies. In the filing, Apple included counterclaims for unjust enrichment and wrongful interference with Apple’s relationship with its users.
“Epic’s flagrant disregard for its contractual commitments and other misconduct has caused significant harm to Apple,” the filing says. “Left unchecked, Epic’s conduct threatens the very existence of the iOS ecosystem and its tremendous value to consumers.”
Apple’s move comes as a response to Epic’s motion for a temporary injunction, submitted over the weekend. Apple’s filing includes a set of defenses against that motion. The technology giant claims there were legal business justifications for all of its actions, which would undermine the antitrust claim.
Under the recent ruling on a temporary injunction, Fortnite is not likely to return to the App Store any time soon. Apple is banned from taking additional measures against another developer account used by Epic to promote the Unreal Engine.
On September 9, Epic said that Apple would stop letting users use its sign-on solution, “Sign In with Apple,” to access the Epic Games account. In other words, anyone who used Apple credentials to access Epic Games Store and play Fortnite would lose that access unless they changed their account first.
However, Epic said Apple has provided it with an “indefinite extension” on supporting “Sign In with Apple” for Epic accounts. Still, it advises its users to prepare their accounts for the potential removal of Apple’s sign-on option and published guidelines on its website on how users can change their login credentials.
When asked about the recent news, Apple said it wasn’t planning on pulling out the “Sign In with Apple” option and stop users from accessing their Epic Games accounts. While it’s still unclear what the truth is, Epic said Apple was enforcing the removal of the sign-on option before and warned users that it still could.
Apple and Epic Games are involved in a legal feud after the former removed the Fortnite video game from its App Store. Previously, Epic Games implemented a new way to buy game credits bypassing Apple's own payment system.
Avi Ben Ezra is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Cofounder of SnatchBot and SnatchApp (Snatch Group Limited). He leads the Group’s long-term technology vision and is responsible for running all facets of the tech business which includes being the architect of the platforms and UI interfaces.