Why Did Apple and Google Ban Fortnite?

Fortnite, an online video game developed by Epic Games that gained rapid popularity around the globe after its release in 2017, was recently taken down by Apple from its app store. A few hours later, Google also followed suit by removing the game from Google Play Store. 

It is very unusual for a wildly popular game to be taken down like that – and, as expected, there was a backlash. Thousands of Fortnite fans from different parts of the world took to social media and used the hashtag #FreeFortnite to register their protest.

Then came the lawsuits and before we knew it, we had a full-blown tech feud happening right under our noses. Epic Games has locked horns with Apple and Google – and if you’re wondering why in the world a gaming giant has taken on two of the biggest tech giants out there, you are at the right place!

Let’s understand what started this feud in the first place

The Starting Point: Fortnite In-App Payment System

Tensions between Apple and Epic Games heightened earlier on in the month as Epic Games introduced a new payment system for Fortnite. 

The new in-app purchase method was more direct and awarded a 20% permanent discount to users who bought ‘V-bucks’, the in-game currency for Fortnite.

This new system was introduced on August 13 across all platforms. While the discount was largely appreciated by PC and console users, things were a little more complicated for mobile users.

It is a well-known fact that both Apple and Google charge a fixed fee of 30% for all the in-app purchases made by gamers using their platform.

The new in-app purchase system aka epic direct payment system presented an alternative to this. It gave users a choice; they could either process their purchases through Apple (iOS) or Google (Android) by paying a few more dollars so the mobile giants had their cut or they could buy V-bucks directly from Epic – and that too at a lower price.

The new purchase system allowed users to simply bypass Google and Apple’s fees and acquire more V bucks for lesser money.

Predictably, this move did not sit right with either of the tech giants who were quick to point out that Epic Games had violated their app store guidelines.

Why Was Fortnite Banned?

Fornite was banned because it rolled out a new and direct in-app purchase method without seeking approval from Apple and Google respectively. 

Shortly after Apple banned Fornite, it released a statement explaining the decision. “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,” it read, adding that the popular video game had been removed from their store for this reason.

“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,” maintained Apple.

Meanwhile, Google also banned Fortnite from Google Play Store, although it can still be downloaded on Android phones using Fortnite’s game launcher.

According to a Google spokesman, those who opt for Google Play Store need to adhere to ‘consistent policies’ devised to be fair to both developers and gamers. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies,” added the spokesman.

Epic Games Claps Back at Apple and Google

Epic Games was already expecting Apple to respond to its new payment process in this manner.

It appears that the world-renowned gaming company is ready for a long battle against what it calls
“Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions in the iOS app distribution and payment processing market.”

Apart from releasing a parody video based on a 1984 Apple ad, Epic Games fought back by filing antitrust lawsuits against both Apple and Google.

Epic Games clarified its position by taking to its Mega Drop FAQ page to defend the right of developers and gamers to pick payment providers that charge lower fees.

“We expect to see a general change in smartphone practices industry-wide for all developers that bring greater value and freedom of choice to consumers. We expect Apple to unblock Fortnite,” read the statement. 

Update: Epic Games Requests Court to Reverse the Ban

Last Friday, Epic Games requested the judge to make Apple reinstate Fortnite on the App Store as soon as possible. The gaming giant also told the court that its daily active users had dropped by a staggering 60% ever since Fornite was removed.

The week earlier, a similar request filed by Epic Games was denied by a US District Judge. But now, the game developer is arguing that the ban caused harm to the company and its reputation as well as the public.

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