Games

'Fortnite' Developer Epic Games Is Suing Apple for Anti-Competitive Practices

After Apple took 'Fortnite' down from the App Store, the developer filed a lawsuit in retaliation.
August 13, 2020, 8:16pm
Artwork from the video game Fortnite.
Artwork courtesy of Epic Games

Immediately following Apple’s decision to remove Fortnite from the App Store after developer Epic Games added the ability to go around Apple’s in-house payment system, Epic Games announced it had filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging the company “imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints” that prevent developers from reaching customers.

“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” reads the lawsuit, which Epic made publicly available online. “Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.”

Apple did not respond to a request for comment from VICE Games about the lawsuit.

Update: Google has now removed Fornite from the Google Play store, and in response, Epic has responded with another lawsuit. The full lawsuit has been put online by The Verge.

Earlier today, Epic released an update that made it possible to purchase the Fortnite in-game currency, V-Bucks, without using the payment mechanisms built by Apple and Google. By using Epic’s own payment system, the company was able to get around the revenue split present on both the App Store and Google Play, where 70 percent goes to developers and 30 percent goes to either Apple or Google. To incentivize players, the V Bucks were a little bit cheaper.

That Epic had a lawsuit ready to go suggests it knew Apple would remove Fortnite from the App Store. Nearly simultaneously, Epic held an in-game event in Fortnite where it revealed the hashtag “#FreeFortnite” and explained what was happening to players.

“Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly,” reads part of the in-game presentation. “In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984'."”

The style and 1984 reference is a nod to one of Apple’s most famous advertisements, which itself was meant to be anti-establishment and play up Apple’s underdog nature at the time:

The lawsuit claims Epic is “not seeking any monetary damages,” meaning they aren’t asking Apple to pay back profits it believes it should have earned from previous Fortnite sales.

Epic is asking, instead, to “end Apple’s dominance over key technology markets, open up the space for progress and ingenuity, and ensure that Apple mobile devices are open to the same competition as Apple’s personal computers.” In the lawsuit, Epic claims it would be interested in building its own competing app store that could be loaded onto iOS devices, and points to the way Apple’s own Mac computers allow open software and the App Store.

On the PC, Epic does run its own storefront that competes with marketplaces like Steam.

Even though Fortnite has been removed from the App Store, it’s still possible for anyone who already downloaded it to continue playing and buying V Bucks. If you’ve downloaded the game in the past, it’s also still possible to redownload Fortnite to your device—though Epic points out that updates will stop, potentially killing the game on iPhone eventually.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).