A battle royale seems to be brewing between tech titans Apple and Google and wildly popular game Fortnite. Epic Games, publisher of Fortnite, is making the first major challenge to Apple’s dominant distribution system, its App Store.
At issue is how players pay for weapon and outfit upgrades for their in-game personas. Apple and Google both require a cut for players using iOS and Android devices, essentially cutting into how much Epic takes in on those devices unlike other gaming platforms.
Epic, based in Cary, North Carolina, kicked off its offensive Thursday by announcing a direct payment option for mobile players, which would give them a discount compared to buying through the iOS app. Soon after that, the game was no longer available to download via Apple’s App Stores. In response, Epic Games filed suit in U.S. District Court in California, claiming Apple has set “unreasonable restraints” over how it handles in-app payments.
“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” reads an excerpt from the complaint, which is embedded below. “Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear.” While other major tech players including Netflix, Spotify and Amazon have raised issues about Apple’s 30% fee for revenue from most app developers, this is the first legal challenge, says Daniel Ives, an analyst and managing director with Wedbush Securities.
“This is the first major shot across the bow, especially given Epic and Fortnite, they have such a massive following,” Ives said. “This is going to be a battle royale and investors as well as developers are watching closely to see how this all plays out and also to see Apple’s next move.”