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Fortnite is one of the most popular games in the world, but Apple has removed it from the App Store. Let’s take a quick look at why this happened, and why you should care – even if you’re not a gamer.
The App Store has always worked on a commissions basis. If you sell an app, an in-app purchase, or a subscription, Apple takes a 30% cut and you get the rest. Processing your own purchases to avoid paying that 30% cut is against Apple’s policies, and that’s precisely the rule Fortnite’s developer Epic Games has very deliberately broken here. It snuck through a new feature – without a formal app update – allowing players to buy in-game items through Epic’s own storefront. Hence the game being removed from the App Store until it agrees to comply.
But that’s just where the drama begins. Within a matter of hours of being pulled from the store, Epic had filed a lawsuit against Apple in court, started the hashtag #FreeFortnite, and released a propaganda video titled Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite painting Apple as an Orwellian overlord. It’s a well-produced clip, parodying Apple’s classic Super Bowl ad from days past.
Epic, of course, is not the first company to take umbrage with Apple’s policies, but it’s the first with such a clear game plan. This response – especially the surprisingly slick video – could not have been produced in a few hours as a reaction to the ban. It’s clearly an attempt to take the policy discussion public and build pressure on Apple to change its rules. Or create an exception just for Fortnite.
For what it’s worth, Google has taken Apple’s side here and Fortnite has also been removed from the Play Store on Android for the same reason. But Epic will likely have the backing of apps like HEY that also tried to stand up to Apple in recent months.
It’s a complex issue and one that a neutral observer can probably see both sides of. On the one hand, developers have been complaining about inconsistent and unfair App Store rules for years, and it would be nice to see Apple make a few changes in that department. On the other hand, this seems like a cynical move by Epic to take advantage of the current US antitrust hearings to force a way for Fortnite to make even more money.
Apple claims its App Store is a “level playing field,” but there is precedent for it making exceptions for the big boys like Netflix and Amazon. What we’d love to see is an effort to make the App Store a truly level playing field; a fairer place to ply your trade for developers of all sizes.