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Epic and Apple are locked in a battle of wills, each having made their own grand gestures today over in-app purchases and Apple’s steadfast insistence that it takes 30 percent cut of a game’s App Store revenue.
Apple has now completely pulled Fortnite from the App Store, the only sanctioned storefront for iOS devices, in response to Epic’s earlier ploy to bypass Apple’s in-app purchase cut by offering its own payment option at a reduced cost to Fortnite players.
(Update 8/13/20 7:30 PM: Google has also made the call to pull Fortnite from its first-party Google Play Store, though it can still be downloaded through third-party storefronts like Epic's own launcher. In a statement to The Verge, a Google spokesperson said "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.
"While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”)
On the Apple side of the fence, another statement received by The Verge frames Epic’s new payment option was a deliberate challenge to Apple and violation of the App Store guidelines, resulting in Fortnite’s swift and sudden removal only hours later.
“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,” reads that statement. “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.”
In that statement, Apple pitches its decision as a friendly gesture to the rest of the development community to keep the playing field level for everyone.
“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,” continues the statement. “The fact that their business interest 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.”
The thing is, this is far from the first blow exchanged between Epic Games and Apple. Epic frontman Tim Sweeney has been a vocal opponent to Apple’s 30 percent cut, or really any mobile platform’s 30 percent cut, for some time now, having just recently called those fees “exploitative” in a Twitter thread. Fortnite in particular took months to launch on Google’s first-party Play Store because of those strict rules about Google’s 30 percent share, and Google refused to budge for the duration of that battle. Now it seems that it’s Apple’s turn at the plate.
Today's update is looking more and more like a coordinated attack from Epic Games with each passing hour; shortly after Apple's announcement that Fortnite was pulled over rule violations, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple to, in Epic's words, "end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion dollar markets."