ENTERTAINMENT

Fortnite’s maker sues Apple and Google after the game was removed from both app stores

Aug 14, 2020, 6:04 AM
The Epic Games Inc. Fortnite: Battle Royale video game is seen in the App Store on an Apple Inc. iP...
The Epic Games Inc. Fortnite: Battle Royale video game is seen in the App Store on an Apple Inc. iPhone displayed for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 10, 2018. Fortnite, the hit game that's denting the stock prices of video-game makers after signing up 45 million players, didn't really take off until it became free and a free-for-all. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

    (CNN) — The maker of Fortnite is suing Apple and Google after the tech giants blocked the wildly popular online video game, which boasts hundreds of millions of registered players, from their app stores Thursday.

The companies behind the iOS and Google Play app stores said they removed Fortnite because its developer, Epic Games, violated their guidelines by announcing a way for players to buy in-game currency without using Apple and Google’s proprietary payment systems.

It quickly became clear that the suits were not a spur of the moment decision by Epic. The complaints ran to 60 pages each, and one of the lawyers involved is Christine Varney, who ran the Justice Department’s antitrust division during the Obama administration.

Epic then added insult to injury, releasing a video parodying Apple’s iconic “1984” ad, casting Apple in the role of villain. It also threw Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” slogan back at the tech company, and accused the firm of having “relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought.”


 

First Apple, then Google

The controversy began when Epic Games announced Thursday it will offer a permanent 20% discount on Fortnite’s in-game currency if players purchase directly from Epic.

In a blog post, Epic said players could not get the discount if they paid via Apple or Google.

“Currently, when using Apple and Google payment options, Apple and Google collect a 30% fee, and the up to 20% price drop does not apply.”

The company added, “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”

Epic’s post referred to how both Apple and Google app stores take a 30% cut of in-app sales. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has publicly criticized both Apple and Google for their practices.

Hours later, Fortnite had vanished from Apple’s app store — and Epic responded with a lawsuit.

“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 said in its complaint, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. It requested an injunction to prohibit Apple’s allegedly anticompetitive conduct and to mandate that Apple restore competition.

Apple said Thursday that Epic had violated its App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments.

“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,” Apple said in a statement emailed to CNN Business. “As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store.”

Apple said it will work with Epic to resolve the violations so Fortnite can return to the App Store.

Later Thursday, Google said it too had removed Fortnite from the Google Play Store, though the game can still be installed from other sources on Android devices.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores,” Google said in a statement. “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.”

In response, Epic filed another suit — this time against Google.

Google “is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize,” the complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, read.

An ongoing antagonistic relationship

This isn’t the first time Epic has had an antagonistic relationship with the major app stores. In 2018, Epic announced it would not bring Fortnite to Google’s Play Store and instead asked players to download the game directly from its website.

In April, Epic released Fortnite on the Google Play Store, two years after the game landed on iOS. At the time, it explained in a statement that it finally made the move because software downloaded outside of Google Play on Android operates at a disadvantage, suffering from security pop-ups and restrictions, with Google public relations describing such software as malware.

The revolt against the dominant app store operators includes other household names. Last year, Netflix ended support for in-app subscriptions, asking users instead to pay through its website. Spotify made a similar decision in 2016.

More recently, the new email service Hey.com found itself at odds with Apple because it did not use Apple’s own payment platform. Hey’s founder, David Heinemeier Hansson, testified in January against Apple’s practices in a congressional hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, which is investigating Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google for potential anticompetitive behavior. Hansson has told CNN he’s also spoken to Justice Department antitrust officials about the app’s experience with Apple.

Apple’s policies have attracted the attention of international competition regulators, as well. Earlier this year, the European Commission opened two antitrust investigations into Apple’s App Store, citing a complaint by Spotify.

Apple has rejected claims that it uses its control over the iOS App Store in an anticompetitive manner. It hired an independent research firm to publish a report showing that the 30% cut it takes is standard across many digital marketplaces.

As Epic was preparing to launch its own software marketplace, Sweeney said it no longer makes sense for app stores to take such a hefty chunk of app developers’ revenue.

“The 70/30 percent split was a breakthrough more than a decade ago with the advent of Steam, the Apple App Store, and Google Play,” Sweeney said in an interview with Game Informer. “But today, digital software stores have grown into a $25,000,000,000+ business worldwide across all platforms, yet the economies of scale have not benefited developers.”

Epic says its own app store takes a much smaller cut from app makers — just 12%.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2020 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

Entertainment

rust alec baldwin...
ANDREW DALTON AP Entertainment Writer

Lawsuit settled, filming of “Rust” may resume after Alec Baldwin shooting

Matthew Hutchins, widow of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, says filming will resume on "Rust" in January with the same principal players.
20 hours ago
big dog adoption...
Simone Seikaly

Best Friends waives adoption fees for large dogs during October

The society reports that animal shelters and rescue groups across the state are filled with dogs that weigh over 40 pounds.
20 hours ago
Arctic Monkeys pictured performing....
Waverly Golden

Arctic Monkeys coming to Salt Lake City in 2023

The Arctic Monkeys, the English rock band, announced their 2023 tour dates and Salt Lake City made the list. 
3 days ago
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Sacheen Littlefeather on stage at AMPAS Presents An Evening...
Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American activist and actress, dead at 75

In August, the Academy formally apologized to Littlefeather for the mistreatment she experienced during her speech and in the years that followed.
3 days ago
Actor Conor Leslie with her newly adopted dog, Delores at the FanX convention that was held Sept. 2...
Amie Schaeffer

DC Universe star finds fur-ever friend at SLC FanX convention

Ruff Patch Rescue is a nonprofit that helps adopt out animals that need a little extra TLC. The organization recently set up at FanX.
8 days ago
Netflix gaming...
Catherine Thorbecke, CNN Business

Netflix to open its own video game studio as part of gaming pivot

The streaming giant is building its first in-house video game studio in Helsinki, Finland, as it expands its empire over mobile games.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Fortnite’s maker sues Apple and Google after the game was removed from both app stores