Apple Yanks ‘Fortnite’ from the App Store Following Epic’s Payment Bypassing Stunt

Whew! There has been some major Apple drama lately. The biggest kerfuffle has been Apple’s refusal to approve the Xbox Game Pass app for the App Store, effectively shutting out the entire iOS ecosystem from being able to enjoy Microsoft’s game subscription service. Many have been critical of this move, and Apple’s App Store policies in general have been under more scrutiny than usual lately due to antitrust concerns. One of the most vocal critics about this whole situation has been Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney. And it’s not just with Apple either, but he kind of has had a beef with a variety of digital app stores and their policies for the past few years. Epic’s own digital storefront has undercut Steam with a smaller percentage take of sales. And Epic daringly took on Google and its Play Store when they decided to launch the Android version of Fortnite, perhaps the most popular game in the world at that time, through their own separate launcher. And although Fortnite is now available through Google Play proper, the stunt seemed to work as it being through Epic’s own launcher initially didn’t seem to hamper its popularity on Android in the least.

In a lot of ways I really respected that stunt by Epic. Not that I think there’s any truly altruistic actions in the world of mega corps, but I do think it takes guts to stand up to the major players in a market and try to affect change. Well Epic is at it again and this time I’m finding their tactics especially clever. As we reported earlier today Epic is now offering an alternate way to buy V-Bucks in Fortnite that skirts Apple’s official IAP system. Not only does it skirt that system, but it offers a huge incentive to NOT use Apple’s system by giving a discount for using Epic’s direct payment system instead.

This blatantly flies against App Store rules, and many people wondered if Apple would actually do something drastic about it, like removing Fortnite from the App Store. It didn’t take long but that’s exactly what has happened. As of this writing Fortnite is no longer available in the iOS App Store, and any special features or Stories about the game now pull up a blank page. This is likely the response Epic wanted as it’s obvious they knew what they were doing all along. Apple has offered an official statement to The Verge, which you can read in full at that link, but it basically amounts to “Epic violated the rules and we won’t make any special exceptions for them just because they’re Epic. All developers get treated equally on the App Store." That has been Apple’s stance regarding all the antitrust inquiries of late, but it is certainly debatable.

As of right now Fortnite is still available on the Google Play Store, so it will be interesting to see what sort of action, if any, Google decides to take regarding Epic’s latest stunt. One thing is for certain though: This ain’t over. Yanking one of the most popular (and highest earning) iOS games from the App Store is bound to ruffle plenty of Fortnite players’ feathers. Will this result in some sort of policy change going forward, or will Epic and Apple come to some sort of agreement under the existing rules? Stay tuned as the drama continues to unfold!

Update: WOW! Mere minutes after posting this, the official Fortnite Twitter account has announced that Epic has filed legal papers against Apple regarding this whole debacle. Get your popcorn gifs ready!