Fortnite’s latest release is upon us, but millions of gamers who’ve enjoyed it on iPhones and other Apple devices won’t be able to play it as its creators at Epic Games are going head to head against Apple in a battle royale that’ll leave only one standing. Or so it seems.
Hyperbole aside, the makers of Fortnite have launched a real-world battle against Apple in a legal challenge that culminated in the release of a dramatic video mocking the creators of Apple with aesthetics cribbed from the company’s famous “1984” ad.
Epic Games isn’t afraid to throw its weight around, and it’s demanding an end to Apple’s cut of 30 percent for everything it sells on the App Store. Epic Games told Fortnite’s 350 million fans to circumvent Apple and spend their money outside the App Store by adding an in-app payment system in violation of its contract with Apple. In response, Apple banned Epic, and Epic sued Apple.
Epic Games then made a show of it by hosting an anti-Apple contest for its players and offered hats as an in-game prize with the word #FreeFortnite.
Game and software developers have always had an issue with Apple’s dominance of the app market, and they argue that the company’s steep cut hurts their bottom line. When you have an app and want to get it to market on the phone, you’ve only two options: Apple or Google. Operating in these closed ecosystems means that developers were forced to play by the rules set by the two companies, which includes taking a 30 percent cut from everything you sell.
Speaking at a congressional hearing in Washington last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the practice by stating that when they first entered the app store market, the cost of distributing software was 50 percent to 70 percent. The company, he says, took a hit by cutting the rate in half and held it at the same level since then.
While it’s true that shipping products out to stores costs money, digital downloads cost a fraction of that. With both bandwidth and space becoming a much cheaper commodity in the current year, Epic Games and other developers argue times have changed and digital downloads, like the ones they produce, should not be taxed by Apple — or Google, for that matter, who Epic is also going up against.
Epic may have a point about Apple’s 30 percent fee, but the courts might not see it the same way given that Epic’s move to circumvent Apple by selling its products outside the store is effectively a breach of its contract with the App Store.
There have been further concerns that Apple’s ban on Epic would also affect numerous games that use Epic’s Unreal Engine. To that end, the courts partially sided with Epic, which just won a temporary restraining order to prohibit Apple from retaliating against them by terminating the developer account used to support its software.
“The Court finds that with respect to Epic Games’ motion as to its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm. The current predicament appears of its own making,” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers declared, adding that Epic “strategically chose to breach its agreements with Apple.”
However, the court added that it was in everyone’s interest to maintain the status quo and has prohibited Apple from acting “severely” against Epic Games, which would impact third-party app developers and damage Epic as a whole.
“Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders,” the judge wrote, agreeing with Epic that the fallout could cause “potential significant damage” to Epic’s Unreal Engine and the game industry at large. With that in mind, the judge granted relief for the Unreal Engine.
Regardless of how the case plays out in the coming year, fans of Fortnite can always play the game the way it was intended: on the Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, or PC—but for now, they won’t be able to play it on the go, or even on their Macbook until the courts sort it out.