Epic Sues Apple After Fortnite V-Bucks Discount Leads To iOS Store App Removal

In the time that we started writing this article about Epic’s new “Mega Drop” permanent discount on Fortnite V-Bucks, meant as a shot by Epic Games at Apple Store and Google Pay transaction practices, it appears the story has mutated even further. All in a matter of hours, Apple announced it was removing Fortnite from the iOS App Store, which has caused Epic to immediately retaliate and file a 65-page legal complaint against Apple for “punishment against defying the Apple monopoly.” Epic also debuted a short film in Fortnite which is decidedly anti-monopoly, referencing George Orwell’s 1984. Today’s sequence of events seems to indicate some level of planning by Epic, just waiting for Apple to make that rash move before setting their plan in motion.

The news begins with Epic revealing the Fortnite Mega Drop, meant as a flat 20% discount on the Fortnite premium currency V-Bucks. According to the release, “Starting today, any V-Bucks or real-money offers you purchase on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac are now discounted by up to 20%. You don’t need to do anything!” However, this was not the case for the Apple and Android versions of the game–arguably the most popular versions of Fortnite due to their accessibility. Due to rules and restrictions long in-place by Apple about how third-party transactions can be handled through their own app store, companies are forced to play ball with Apple’s rules and its built-in fees.

“Currently, there are no savings if players use Apple and Google payment options, where Apple and Google collect an exorbitant 30% fee on all payments,” Epic said. “If Apple and Google lower their fees on payments, Epic will pass along the savings to players.” This is also why Fortnite originally launched outside of the Google Play ecosystem and as a side-loadable download, to avoid Google’s own cut of the revenue.

Epic eventually launched a “Direct Payment” option in the Fortnite app which passed the discount on to players and allowed them to buy V-bucks directly through Epic rather than through the App Store.

Apple must not have liked what they heard, because the company’s response to the Mega Drop discount and Epic Pay Direct payment option was to simply remove Fortnite from the iOS App Store altogether. In a statement by Apple, the company said:

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 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.

Not one to ignore a white-glove slap of challenge, Epic returned fire less than an hour later, saying that it was filing a complaint for injunctive relief against Apple in a District of Northern California federal court. “Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history,” says the court papers filed today.

In addition, the company aired a short film in Fortnite called Nineteen-Eighty-Fortnite, which takes a stand against monopolies and suppression by corporations. You can watch the short in the tweet below:

The short film in Fortnite is almost an exact recreation of the ad Apple released in 1984 before releasing the first Macintosh computer, railing against IBM’s computer monopoly at the time. The text at the end of the video reads: “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.’”

With the short queued up and a 65-page lawsuit ready to go, it’s clear Epic had been planning this move long before Apple took action against Fortnite and removed it today. In fact, one could almost look at the bypassing of Apple’s policies as a way of Epic baiting the platform into taking radical action, setting the plan in motion. Remember, this is the same company that “accidentally” enabled cross-play and started the discussion that led to Sony opening up its platform to the feature.

Epic seeks an injunction against what it refers to as “anti-competitive conduct” and could very well turn this into a massive case that has an effect on the mobile market in-turn. Console faithful have no fear, though: For the moment at least, this just means that while Epic and Apple slap fight each other with bundles of money you get a cool, twenty percent discount on V-Bucks. Not a bad deal for now, but how this shakes out into the wider market in the future remains to be seen. The outcome of this case could very well have implications for console and PC platforms as well, redefining what control platform-holders have over developers and publishers.