Tech giants Apple and Google have removed video game Fortnite from their app stores after accusing the maker of the game, Epic Games, of violating their in-app payment guidelines.
Epic Games, owned by Chinese gaming giant Tencent, was removed from Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store after Fortnite circumvented the in-app payment system to avoid hefty fees, instead encouraging users to pay Epic Games directly.
Apple currently takes a 15-30% cut of payments made inside apps. Apps that already have a credit card on file with iPhone customers and which offer in-app payment also benefit Apple.
Epic had the last laugh by broadcasting a parody remake of Apple's famous 1984 ad in the game to drum up support with players.
How has Epic reacted?
- Epic Games announced the beginning of legal action against Apple and Google, urging supporters to ‘join the fight‘ against Apple in an animated remake of of the tech giant’s famous 1984' commercial.
- The original ad ran in the 1984 Super Bowl, announcing the arrival of Apple’s Macintosh computer, and made fun of then-established firms such as IBM. Epic‘s version of the ad described Apple as a “behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition and stifle innovation”.
- In its lawsuit, Epic Games requested the court issue an injunction against Apple preventing it from removing the app from the store.
- Apple said in a statement that Epic was removed for making in-app changes with “the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines”.
- “Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market,” Epic Games said in a statement.
- “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 welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play,” said Dan Jackson, a spokesman for Google.
- A spokesman from Spotify told The Verge that the platform “applauds the decision to take a stand against Apple and shed further light on Apple’s abuse of its dominant position”.
David Felton, a senior creative at W Communications in London and a gamer with 2,241 kills and 91 Battle Royale victories in Fortnite, shared his thoughts on the campaign.
"Epic Games clearly knew how Apple would respond and had this ready to go live; a brilliant shot-for-shot remake of arguably the most famous ad of all time. I think it’s very well done – it’ll be hard to talk about Apple’s '1984' ever again without mentioning this rebuttal. It’s a beautiful homage, and particularly scathing in the way Apple’s role has been reversed, going from liberator to evil empire. How the tables turn."
A war has been brewing in the app ecosystem for a while now. "Apple is using its size and power to bully developers. It has been essentially saying ‘It’s our way or the highway’ for years. It’s good to see someone standing up to the Apple behemoth. Google has also removed Fortnite from its Play Store for breaking their terms of service, but unlike Apple it offers a choice – there’s absolutely nothing to stop people downloading it directly from Epic.
Epic Games lands a hard punch too, reminiscent of Avis ‘We Try Harder’ or the legendary beef between Burger King and McDonald’s. "There’s a great tradition of parody ads, in fact here at W Comms we recently created the New Spice Guy with Luke Trotman to launch Papa John’s new spicy pizza range, but I also like Greenpeace's 'Everything is NOT awesome' film aimed at Lego."
We're unlikely to see the PR wars raging on in video games for now. "This is such an incredibly bold move, which is what makes it so noteworthy. Not only calling out a previous partner but using their own ad to transform them from hero to villain. It’s a brilliant masterstroke and in my opinion – one for the advertising history books."
Watch the side-by-side comparison below.
Additional reporting from John McCarthy.