Apple Removes Fortnite From App Store [Update: Epic Files Lawsuit Against Apple]
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 morning, Epic Games began letting players purchase 1,000 V-Bucks in the Fortnite app for $7.99, with the purchases going directly to Epic Games rather than using Apple's in-app purchase system.
At the time, it was not known if Epic Games had some kind of special permission from Apple to introduce such a feature as it is a clear violation of Apple's App Store rules surrounding in-app purchases. Given that the app has now been pulled from the App Store, it appears that Epic Games willingly violated Apple's requirements by offering the direct payment plan.
Rule 3.1.1 of Apple's App Store guidelines states that apps that offer in-game currencies need to use the in-app purchase mechanism. Apps are prohibited from including buttons, links, or other calls to action that ask customers to use non-Apple approved payment methods.
3.1.1 In-App Purchase:
- If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as license keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.
Epic Games made the direct payment option available in the in the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and other countries, and said that because apps that offer real-life goods and services like Uber and StubHub are not required to use Apple's in-app purchase mechanism, Fortnite should be entitled to the same treatment. Epic Games has also called Apple and Google's 30 percent commission on in-app purchases "exorbitant."
In response to Apple's statement and the removal of Fortnite from the App Store, Epic Games announced a new Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite short premiering at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, which appears to be a riff on Apple's famous 1984 ad.
Epic Games' stand against Apple comes as Apple is facing a U.S. antitrust investigation over its App Store rules and policies and as Apple is recovering from another very public dispute over the "Hey" email app.
Update: Epic Games has filed a lawsuit against Apple for pulling Fortnite from the App Store. [PDF]
In the filing, Epic Games accuses Apple of being a "the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation" and imposing "anti-competitive restraints" and using "monopolistic practices in markets" against App Store developers.
Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolize both markets and prevent software developers from reaching the over one billion users of its mobile devices (e.g., iPhone and iPad) unless they go through a single store controlled by Apple, the App Store, where Apple exacts an oppressive 30% tax on the sale of every app. Apple also requires software developers who wish to sell digital in-app content to those consumers to use a single payment processing option offered by Apple, In-App Purchase, which likewise carries a 30% tax.
With the lawsuit, Epic Games says it is not aiming for a cash payout, but instead wants to secure "injunctive relief" in the iOS App distribution market and payment processing market for " hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers."
Update 2: The Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite short is now available on the Fortnite YouTube channel, encouraging people to "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming 1984." The ad is also available in Fortnite.
Epic Games has also created an FAQ explaining the lawsuit it has filed against Apple and why iPhone and iPad users can't access the Fortnite app.