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Apple and Google App Store Hegemony Challenged by 'Fortnite' Maker Epic Games

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Epic Games, maker of the popular online game Fortnite, has gone to battle with Apple and Google over the way they charge fees in their app stores. 

The fast-escalating kerfuffle started Thursday, when Epic Games, via a sneaky-quite software update, directed its users to purchase in-game trinkets directly from the gamemnaker, at a 20% discount, and not Apple’s App Store. Apple quickly booted Fortnite out of its store. And Epic Games quickly filed suit against Apple. 

The same process unfolded with Google and the Google Play Store hours later. The wild Thursday afternoon ride, which culminated in the publicizing of Epic’s lawsuits, was highlighted by a video Epic snuck into its Apple version parodying the computer giant’s landmark Orwellian “1984” commercial. 

“The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. 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,” Google said in a statement. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”

Both Google and Apple take a 30% revenue cut from in-app purchases. 

Fortnite, which had amassed 350 million players worldwide as of May, can still be downloaded and played on iOS and Android mobile devices, as well as personal computers, directly from Epic. 

This battle is undoubtedly being watched closely by app operators in the video streaming world, which have also lamented the revenue splits demanded by Apple and Google to transact in their respective online stores. 

“Rather than tolerate this healthy competition and compete on the merits of its offering, Apple responded by removing Fortnite from sale on the App Store, which means that new users cannot download the app, and users who have already downloaded prior versions of the app from the App Store cannot update it to the latest version,” Epic said in its lawsuit against Apple.

It’s not the first time Epic has pushed back against app store hegemony. It only recently returned its Fortnite app to Google Play after an 18-month tussle that began in June 2018.