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SYFY WIRE Fortnite

Apple, Google pull Fortnite from app stores, as Epic Games files legal complaints & drops short film

By Jacob Oller & Nivea Serrao
Fortnite 1984

After a change in in-game currency purchases, Apple and Google have removed hit battle royale game and concert/lecture venue Fortnite from the iOS App Store and the Google Play store, respectively. In response, Fortnite's Epic Games has filed a legal complaint against both companies and released a short specifically poking fun at Apple.

The complaint against Apple — found here in its entirety — cites "anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices in markets for (i) the distribution of software applications ('apps') to users of mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablets, and (ii) the processing of consumers’ payments for digital content used within iOS mobile apps ('in-app content')."

"Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolize both markets," the complaint reads, focusing on the "30 percent tax" taken by Apple from apps and in-app purchases — the key issue behind the beef. Epic updated their price for the premium in-game currency V-Bucks to 20 percent lower across all platforms and introduced a direct payment option to circumvent Apple and Google's 30 percent fee of sales. That direct payment option is what rubbed Apple the wrong way, leading to their removal of the app from their store.

The Verge reports that Apple confirmed this: "As a result [of Epic's update to the game,] their Fortnite app has been removed from the store."

"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," Apple declared in its full statement. "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."

Whether these guidelines are anti-competitive as the legal complaint claims will be up to the Northern District of California courts.

Regardless, this was a planned move by Epic. It also posted a satirical short film Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite, which riffs off a famous Apple commercial that itself references the novel 1984.

Take a look:

The giant apple-headed oppressor, the black-and-white oppressed, and the candy-colored Fortnite liberator...this is a clear dig against Apple long before the text rolls on screen: "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." The video ends with the hashtag #FreeFortnite.

Shortly thereafter, Google followed suit, with The Verge also reporting that Fortnite for Android has also been removed from the Google Play store.

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” said Google in a statement. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

In response, Epic Games has now filed a legal complaint for "injunctive relief" against Google as well, which can be read here.

Much like Epic's complaint against Apple, the one against Google alleges that the company has formed two monopolies: one in terms of the distribution of mobile apps to users, and the second in terms of the restraints placed on the processing of payment for digital content within apps — thus also putting them in direct violation of the Sherman Act and California's Cartwright Act. The suit aims to "end Google’s unfair, monopolistic and anticompetitive actions" on both fronts, as they "harm device makers, app developers, app distributors, payment processors, and consumers."

While the complaint against Apple referenced the company's iconic1984 referencing ad — i.e. the basis of the parody video above — the complaint against Google brings up their original motto, "Don't Be Evil," before going on to allege that "[t]wenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize."  

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney also commented on the ongoing suit against Apple, tweeting: "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!" 

Fortnite is still available to play on all major consoles and PC, as well as at the Samsung Galaxy Store, on Samsung devices. 

**UPDATE: This story was updated at 8:26 p.m. ET with Google's decision to remove the game from the Google Play store, and later at 9:01 p.m. ET with details of Epic's legal complaint against Google, and Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney's tweets on the matter.**