Epic Games

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

There's a new development in the battle between Epic Games, the developer of the popular Fortnite game, and Apple over in-app purchase fees.

According to Epic, Apple has not only removed Fortnite from the App Store, but also threatened to terminate all Epic developer accounts and make the iOS / macOS app development tools unavailable if it does not respond to the fix by August 28.

Epic said this is a retaliation for Epic's complaint that Apple's developer guidelines are invalid under antitrust law, which, if implemented, would make Fortnite as well as the Unreal Engine, a game engine widely deployed in games and apps made by other companies, impossible to develop and support. The company has filed an injunction in the district court, arguing that this would have a significant impact on iOS and macOS developers, as well as the company itself.

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

The battle between Apple and Epic took a sharp turn last week when Apple removed Epic's popular Fortnite game from the App Store.

Apple removed Fortnite, which is also a source of revenue for itself, because Epic offered users the option to purchase Fortnite's in-game currency, the V-Bucks, directly from Epic at a discount, as well as in-app purchases, which provide Apple with a 30% commission income.

Epic Games

Apple charges a commission of 30% of the sales of the paid apps themselves for apps sold and distributed on the App Store, as well as mandating the use of in-app purchases for paid feature unlocks and game item charges, earning 30% of the sales per payment.

Epic has been criticizing this 30% "store tax", saying it's ridiculous to charge 30% for every in-game currency purchase that doesn't require a separate verification cost and doesn't cost Apple anything. The company has long accused Apple of abusing its monopoly position by charging a payment fee that is nearly 10 times higher than credit cards, PayPal, and other payment services used online, and forcing developers to use Apple's in-app purchases as their payment service because they have no other choice but to use the App Store for app distribution.

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

On August 14, Epic announced a permanent price cut for the in-game currency, V-Bucks, with a new discounted price if you buy directly from Epic.

For example, 1,000 V-Bucks will cost 1,220 yen through Apple, compared to 880 yen if you buy them through Epic Direct Payment.

At the same time, Epic has updated Fortnite for mobile, adding an "Epic Direct Payment" option for direct in-app purchases.

Using non-Apple payment methods and directing them from within the app is a violation of Apple's developer guidelines and was removed from the App Store in a short time. Somewhat belatedly, Fortnite has also been removed from Google's Google Play.

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

Epic apparently anticipated and prepared for Apple's response and released the Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite video as soon as Fortnite was removed from the App Store.

When Apple launched the Macintosh personal computer, it aired a commercial comparing IBM, the dominant company in the market at the time, to Big Brother, the dictator in Orwell's 1984 novel, and portraying itself as the liberator of a monopoly and the leader of a revolution to save consumers.

Epic's video does the opposite, portraying Apple as a monopoly tyrant and Fortnite as a hero in the face of dictatorship.

Epic has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple in federal district court. Knowing that it would be pressured for blatant violations of the guidelines, it is thought to be aiming to win over players who know they won't be able to play the new season in the future, and to provoke a debate about the "30% tax" against public opinion, claiming that it is an abuse of monopoly status.

(Although being removed from the App Store may have been relatively less shocking and mobilizing to players than the scenario Epic envisioned, since players who had already installed the game were not immediately affected.)

According to Epic, the date Apple warned about is August 28; Epic has filed a motion with the court seeking an injunction, but for now, it looks like there will be another major development in Apple vs. Epic before August 28.

Apple hasn't commented specifically on the motion by Epic, only guiding a statement from last week when it removed Fortnite. Read the 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.”

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.