In its first statement since Monday’s captivating hearing, this morning Epic Games sought to further clarify its position against Apple while also admitting that the latest chapter of Fortnite would not be appearing on either iOS or macOS when it launches August 27.
If you listened in on Monday’s trial, Epic’s latest statement will sound like a refrain. “Apple is asking that Epic revert Fortnite to exclusively use Apple payments. Their proposal is an invitation for Epic to collude with Apple to maintain their monopoly over in-app payments on iOS, suppressing free market competition and inflating prices. As a matter of principle, we won’t participate in this scheme,” Epic said in its statement.
Unlike the Android operating system, Apple does not allow side-loading of apps, or installing apps from anywhere but the App Store on iOS devices. This allows Apple to review every single app for malicious code or anything else that could hurt the user in some way. It might seem like an extreme approval process, but it also helps protect the data of users that otherwise unscrupulous developers might hoover up. Unfortunately while secure it also forces consumers and developers to only use Apple’s App Store. That’s where the issue lies.
As it continues in its statement, Epic believes that mobile device owners have “the right” to install apps from sources of their choosing, and developers should have the right to “compete in a fair marketplace.” Unfortunately for developers, when it comes to paid apps or apps that offer paid transactions within the app, Apple’s App Store policies become a whole new nightmare.
As Epic pointed out during Monday’s hearing, since developers are forced to put their apps on the App Store if they want iOS users to have access to their software, Apple also forces those developers to give it a 30% commission if it’s a paid app and/or if it has the option for recurring in-app transactions. Not only is this commission rate standard across the board as part of its App Store policies (unless you’re Amazon), but developers with in-app transactions are required to have all payments processed through Apple’s system, which allows the company to take its cut before delivering the other 70% to the developers.
Conversely, if an app offers products or services that will be consumed outside of the app itself, then the developers must include a direct payment method. This policy as it applies to cross-platform gaming and cloud gaming becomes murky, as users can technically purchase something from within the app but then use that item from another device. Stadia subscribers can purchase games via the iOS app, but they are not limited to playing that game on their phone, since all games on Stadia can be played on several different devices and platforms. Users can purchase V-bucks (in-game currency) on their Fortnite account through the iOS app, but then later use those V-bucks on a console or PC to purchase a skin or other in-game item because Fortnite accounts are linked across multiple platforms.
“Epic is one of the many game developers who has long worked to advance better and fairer platform practices, such as cross-platform gameplay, communication, accounts, and items in Fortnite on 7 platforms (though now only 6),” said Epic.
But Apple’s policies also block Microsoft Project xCloud, Nvidia GeForce Now, and Google Stadia from the App Store because users do not own or rent the hardware that is being used to run the games. If Apple can screen the Stadia app and approve it to be on the App Store, what’s the concern with letting iPhone and iPad users play games via the same app on their Apple devices, especially since Stadia can be used on macOS via the Chrome browser?
Fortnite’s newly released Chapter 2 Season 4 update will not release on iOS and macOS on August 27 as previously scheduled, and all future updates will be affected as well. Fortnite has also been removed from the App Store, so if you wanted to start playing the game, unfortunately, you’ll have to wait — or switch to another platform. Android users can still get the latest version of Fortnite from the Epic Games App for Android on Fortnite.com/Android or the Samsung Galaxy Store.
For what it’s worth, Apple did say during Monday’s hearing that the “competition is in the foremarket,” (physical devices like MacBooks and iPhones) not in the aftermarket (the App Store), and that users switch to a competing brand “all the time.” While the direct and indirect costs associated with such a switch are debatable, maybe now is a good time to switch to Android if you really need your Fortnite fix.