Apple has faced increasing scrutiny over its App Store practices from both developers and regulators in recent months. One particularly vocal critic has been Fortnite creator Epic Games, which has repeatedly referred to the App Store as a monopoly.
In August 2020, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store after Epic Games introduced a direct payment option in the app for its in-game currency V-Bucks, defying the App Store rules. In what appears to have been an orchestrated move, Epic Games promptly filed a lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of anti-competitive actions.
Below, we’ve put together a timeline of the Epic Games vs. Apple saga.
- Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney tells The Washington Post that “the iOS App Store’s monopoly protects only Apple profit, not device security.”
- Sweeney quote tweets The Washington Post‘s story: “Here Apple speaks of a level playing field. To me, this means: All iOS developers are free to process payments directly, all users are free to install software from any source. In this endeavor, Epic won’t seek nor accept a special deal just for ourselves.”
- Sweeney tweets: “Opening iOS and Android up as truly open platforms with a genuinely level playing field between first party and third party apps and stores is the only way to ensure a competitive, healthy, and fair app economy.”
- Sweeney tells CNBC that the App Store is an “absolute monopoly,” arguing that “Apple has locked down and crippled the ecosystem by inventing an absolute monopoly on the distribution of software, on the monetization of software.”
- Sweeney tweets: “It pains me to complain about Apple in this way. Apple is one of the greatest companies that has ever existed, perhaps the greatest. But they’re fundamentally wrong in blocking competition and choice on devices they make, and that holds up entire fields of technological progress.”
- Sweeney tweets: “This is a critical consideration in these 30% store fees. They come off the top, before funding any developer costs. As a result, Apple and Google make more profit from most developers’ games than the developers themselves. That is terribly unfair and exploitative.”
- Sweeney tweets: “Apple’s intentional anti-competitive strategy has been running for much longer than most realize. Here they are in 2011 muscling Kindle purchases off of iPhone by demanding 30% of e-book revenue, ‘which we acknowledge is prohibitive for many things.'”
- Epic Games introduces a direct payment option in the Fortnite app for iPhone and iPad, allowing players to purchase in-game V-Bucks at a 20 percent discount by sidestepping Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism. This functionality violates Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, which indicate that apps offering in-game currency must use Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism only.
- The direct payment option is also added to the Fortnite app on Android in violation of Google’s Play Store rules.
- Epic Games describes Apple’s and Google’s 30 percent cut on in-app purchases as “exorbitant.” Epic also notes that apps that offer real-life goods and services like Uber, DoorDash, and StubHub are not required to use Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism, a rule that it believes should apply to all developers.
Apple removes Fortnite from the App Store. In a statement shared with MacRumors, the company said that “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.” The full statement is below.
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 its 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 Games files a lawsuit [PDF] against Apple in California, describing the company as a “monopoly power” and accusing it of “unfair and anti-competitive actions.” The complaint alleges that “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation.”
Epic Games shares a video called “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite,” parodying Apple’s iconic “1984” ad. Whereas Apple’s ad portrayed IBM as the evil “Big Brother,” Epic Games aims to show that Apple is now the dominant power. “Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984.’”
- In a blog post, Epic Games encourages Fortnite players to fight against Apple’s “app tax” by using the hashtag #FreeFortnite on social platforms.
- In an FAQ, Epic Games says that “all mobile developers and consumers have the right to choose alternate payment providers that charge less, as is the norm on all other general-purpose computing platforms, including Web, Windows, and Mac.” Epic adds that “Apple even allows Amazon Prime Video to process payments directly as a special deal while holding other apps to a different standard.”
- Spotify sides with Epic Games.
- Google removes Fortnite from the Play Store.
- Epic Games files a similar anti-competitive lawsuit against Google.
- Sweeney tweets: “Today, Apple said Epic is seeking a special deal, but that’s not true. We’re fighting for open platforms and policy changes equally benefiting all developers. And it’ll be a hell of a fight!”
We will keep this timeline updated as further developments unfold in the Epic Games vs. Apple saga, so keep this page bookmarked to stay up to date.
This article, “Epic Games vs. Apple: Timeline of Events Surrounding Fortnite’s Removal From App Store” first appeared on MacRumors.com