With the row between Epic Games and Apple dominating the gaming world in 2020, are the two giants still fighting over Fortnite?
While 2020's gaming scene was largely dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on how we play, one of the biggest stores aside from COVID-19 was a modern-day David and Goliath as Epic Games and Apple locked horns over Fortnite. At the centre of the whole row was Apple's running of the App Store and accusations it's heading up its own tyrannical monopoly by taking a 30% share of in-app purchases. The issue had been raised a thousand times before, but with the might of Fortnite being one of the most popular apps on the iPhone behind it, Epic made the first move.
These days, Fortnite is as popular as ever, with Epic currently in the midst of the all-star Chapter 2 Season 5. While Mac users have a workaround to still play the game on PC, iPhone owners are largely locked out of Fortnite for mobile. Since things first kicked off in June last year, there have been app removals, court cases, adverts that stick the middle finger to the opposition, and an ongoing legal battle that shows no signs of slowing down.
How are Fortnite and Apple still fighting?
Although things came to a head in August, there's still a brutal legal battle bubbling beneath the surface of Epic and Apple's war. In August, Epic introduced a new Fortnite Direct payment system, that allowed players to purchase V-bucks in-app and bypass Apple's storefront. Apple wasted no time in showing just how powerful it can be, pulling Fortnite from the App Store and standing by its slice of the virtual pie.
Since August, Epic has been denied a preliminary injunction, with the case set to go to trial on May 3 this year. Epic is currently unable to update Fortnite on iOS, meaning players are locked in the Chapter 2 Season 4 version. Considering Epic makes a wave of updates at the start of each season, and throughout, the Apple version is being left in the dust. With this in mind, the drop-off of iPhone players is soaring as fans get bored of this outdated version of Fortnite.
Apple originally went to seek damages from Epic for breaching its App Store contract, whereas Epic wanted to sue Apple for its "unfair" takings from developer earnings. Even though Apple has introduced the App Store Small Business Program in Jan - where developers who make less than $1 million a year can apply for a discount - Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said it's a divide and conquer tactic designed to turn companies against each other.
Where is the Fortnite and Apple row up to now?
Although things died down in the close of 2020, we're set for things to boil over massively in 2021. The most recent development is Epic branching its case out to other countries outside the USA. On January 15, Epic filed documents with the intent to sue Apple and Google in the United Kingdom. According to the papers from the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal (CTA), Epic has accused Apple and Google of abusing their operating systems and unfairly restricting competition from other app stores. Epic maintains that Apple and Google are pushing their own payment services and also charging "unfair prices for the distribution of apps".
Unlike Apple, Epic doesn't want financial compensation, but wants the courts to force Apple and Google to "reinstate Epic Games' software and accounts", "let developers use their own payment-processing systems in their apps", and "let consumers download Epic Games' software outside of the App Store or Google Play". Discussing what's next in a statement, Epic said, "We believe that this is an important argument to make on behalf of consumers and developers in the UK and around the world who are impacted by Apple and Google's misuse of market power".
Even if Epic seems like it's on the back foot, it's clear the Fortnite powerhouse isn't going to back down anytime soon. With legal action now on the cards in the USA, Australia, and the UK, Epic is looking for support wherever it can. As it stands, January 21 is a date to mark in the diary. On January 21, the CTA will decide whether the US-based divisions of Apple and Google can be included in its legal action. With no clear winner and no one giving up, the fight for Fortnite promises to be as brutal as the battle royale brawler itself.
Images via Epic Games | Apple