On August 13, Epic Games announced some big player-friendly news about their V-Buck market. They permanently reduced all prices by 20% on all platforms by allowing for direct payments.
This was particularly noteworthy on mobile platforms. The App Store and Google Play Store take a cut of profits, and circumventing these systems is against the rules of these stores. Epic took direct aim at these policies by offering players the choice: save by buying direct or pay more through the mobile stores.
Apple, in particular, did not take kindly to this news. They removed Fortnite from the App Store, blocking their users from being able to play the game. They provided The Verge with a statement on the matter, calling out Epic for breaking their rules:
“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,” they wrote.
“Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem – including it’s 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 was ready for this, however. They immediately filed suit against Apple for removing them, created the #FreeFortnite hashtag, and produced an animated short that was a direct parody of the iconic 1984 Apple Super Bowl commercial.
The point of all of this is simple, as Epic outlined in the introduction of their lawsuit. “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.”
Two massive companies are set to do battle in the streets, in front of all of us. With this move, Epic has the power to shift how companies like Apple take profits from apps that others create.
Google, for their part, seems to be content to sit back and let this play out. They, reportedly, have the same rules as Apple does, but aren’t taking the same action. Epic appeared to be ready for these consequences, however – even welcoming them. It will be very interesting to see what comes of all of this.