Apple removes 'Fortnite' from their App Store, Epic fights back with lawsuit

Conflict over in-app purchases intensifies.

Engadget JP (Translation)
Engadget JP (Translation) , @Engadget_MT
2020年08月14日, 午後 01:58 in egmt
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Epic Games

This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.


Apple has removed Epic Games' popular Fortnite game from the App Store. The reason is a violation of the guidelines for in-app purchases.

While iPhone and iPad users can continue to play Fortnite for the time being if they've already installed it, new installs and updates will not be available.

When the next season 4 begins in the game, iPhone and iPad players will not be able to get or purchase content or battle passes for the new season.

PS: Removed from Google Play on Android as well, although it's a little more complicated because some Android doesn't have Google services and has its own store, but if you replace Apple with Google and App Store with Google Play, the gist is the same.

The reason is conflict over in-app purchases and fees

Apple has locked out a popular game that brings significant profits to its own company because of a conflict with Epic Games over in-app purchases and fees, or, according to Apple, a violation of Epic's rules.

Fortnite sells its in-game currency, V-Bucks, through an in-app purchase mechanism in which Apple takes 30% of the "App Store sales fees and settlement costs for digital content".

Epic of Fortnite had complained about this structure and rate, and had implemented an update that would still be priced the same as before if you went through the App Store, and 20% cheaper if you chose to pay for it directly from Epic.

Apple responded by explaining why it removed Fortnite, saying that this was a violation of its in-app purchase guidelines, which apply equally to all developers, and that the guidelines are to protect the safety of users. Read Apple's full statement here.

“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. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. 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. 

"Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem - including it’s tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.”

Epic, on the other hand, has traditionally criticized Apple (and, on Android, Google on Google Play) for a variety of reasons, citing that it's unfair to be charged a 30% commission as long as you sell digital content and services on the iPhone and iPad.

Fortnite maker Epic Games CEO criticizes Apple and Google's 'app store dominance'

Epic's argument is for example that many apps distributed on the iOS App Store are allowed to use their own payment methods (for Amazon, restaurant reservations, delivery, and other physical goods),While calling it a level playing field, Apple allows in-app purchases of digital content at a special low rate for Amazon Prime Video program purchases and rentals (because its strategy required it), while calling it a level playing field, Apple allows in-app purchases of digital content at a special low rate for Amazon Prime Video program purchases and rentals (because its strategy required it), While calling it a level playing field, Apple allows in-app purchases of digital content at a special low rate for Amazon Prime Video program purchases and rentals (because its strategy required it), and a 30% tax that can be arbitrarily administered to exclude rivals based on Apple's strategy of dominating the operating system rather than allowing consumers to choose the content of the service is anti-competitive.

They also argue that the fact that consumers can freely choose their payment method on the PC and the web, but once they move to mobile, they can only use payments through hardware vendors takes away their freedom of choice and hinders fair competition.

As an integrated service with the operating system, the App Store provides secure bundling of updates and distribution itself, as well as payment for app purchases, but the purchase and use of in-game virtual currency can be accomplished without Apple's servers or services, it doesn't cost Apple anything, but it's odd that they charge the same 30% payment fee as they do for the purchase of a sold-out app. They should be able to separate the payment providers so that consumers can choose their own payment providers, just like Visa and PayPal can be used on the web. That's the logical development of the Epic.

(Some apps offer payment methods other than in-app purchases, but it''s not possible to choose from within the iOS app and let them go to the web to make payments. According to Epic, Apple doesn't even allow directions to these non-App Store payment methods to be included in the app, and Epic dared to allow users to choose their own payment methods within the app because it's not user-friendly).

In the case of these conflicts, you have the freedom to choose not to distribute on iOS, nothing is asking or forcing you to sell it on the iPhone, if you can't play by the rules, don't sell it, which is a kind of naive response. Apple is only allowed to distribute apps via the App Store on iOS because of the truism that there are other mobile platforms besides iOS, and that it's up to the consumer and the market to decide, not the monopoly.

However, given that antitrust and anti-competitive regulations are for the benefit of consumers and are intended to maintain a healthy marketplace through freedom of choice, the theory that a platform's ally can do whatever it wants within its walls and that the freedom to switch from one OS to another is healthy may not hold true in the future. In fact, Apple and Google are under tremendous pressure from regulators and legislatures around the world to be anti-monopoly and anti-competitive.

The conflict about this "30% tax" has been going on endlessly for some time now, but the new coronavirus scourge, especially this year, has also reignited the debate, as businesses that have operated in brick-and-mortar stores and in-person are now moving to virtual locations.

As Epic's CEO Tim Sweeney expressed it, "If colleges hold virtual classes through an iPhone app, Apple could demand 30% of the tuition."

While it's certainly a somewhat sensationalized way to describe the story of what happens if you take tuition through in-app payments, it's also true that Apple applies the App Store's flat 30% fee for these online services as well, or can erase them from the store like Fortnite if you don't comply.

Following Apple's lockout of the App Store, Epic immediately filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple in federal district court. The move is thought to be a way to call out support to surprised players who know they're going to be erased from the store, while at the same time showing the courts and public opinion that "See, this is how Apple abuses its monopoly position".


This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl. The Japanese edition of Engadget does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of this article.

 
 
新型コロナウイルス 関連アップデート[TechCrunch]

 

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