Fortnite creator files antitrust suits against Apple and Google over store bans

14 Aug 2020213 Views

Image: © freeman83/Stock.adobe.com

After Fortnite was pulled from Apple and Google’s app stores for creating its own in-app payments system, Epic Games has taken legal action.

Fortnite has found itself cut adrift from two of the biggest app stores in the world after an app update caused to the game to be banned for violating the policies of the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

The app’s maker, Epic Games, introduced an in-game payment system that would allow users to pay directly for in-app purchases, circumventing the official payment systems put in place by Apple and Google in their app stores.

Both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store take a 30pc cut from every transaction made through apps on the platforms, which Epic Games has said is unfair.

As a result of this move, Fortnite was removed from both app stores on Thursday (13 August) and Epic Games is now filing antitrust lawsuits against the two companies.

Epic Games went so far as to create a video announcement about the conflict parodying Apple’s own famous ‘1984’ TV ad. The gaming company also released its legal complaint online, in which it said that it wants to end Apple’s alleged “unfair and anti-competitive actions”.

“Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this court for the injuries it has suffered. Nor is Epic seeking favourable treatment for itself, a single company,” the document said.

“Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.”

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Any app that wants to be made available on Apple’s operating system, iOS, must go through the App Store and must use its in-built payment system. Developers have taken issue with this in the past, with Spotify filing an antitrust complaint against Apple last year. Meanwhile, the European Commission launched an antitrust investigation in June to assess whether Apple’s rules for app developers violate EU competition regulations.

Because Epic Games tried to go around Apple’s rules, Fortnite can now no longer be downloaded on iOS devices. While users who have already downloaded the app can still play the game, the app can no longer be updated.

In a statement to The Verge, Apple said the game’s removal was due to the inclusion of a feature the company had not reviewed or approved, and that Epic Games took this decision “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”.

Still available on Android, but only just

In similar circumstances, Fortnite has also been removed from the Google Play Store. However, Fortnite can still be installed on Android devices outside the Google Play Store, something which Epic Games has attempted in the past.

While not as strict on in-app purchases as Apple, Google still takes a 30pc cut on all purchases made in games. Epic Games has also filed an antitrust suit against Google, claiming that the payment restriction amounts to a monopoly in violation of US antitrust legislation.

In its legal filing, Epic Games said: “Google has erected contractual and technological barriers that foreclose competing ways of distributing apps to Android users, ensuring that the Google Play Store accounts for nearly all the downloads of apps from app stores on Android devices.”

In a statement, Google said: “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.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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