back to article Epic Games gets itself epically banned, launches epic Fortnite death match with Apple over App Store's epic 30% cut

Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, filed a lawsuit against Apple on Thursday accusing the iGiant of illegally monopolizing iOS app distribution and app payments. The game biz earlier in the day announced a promotional initiative called Fortnite Mega Drop to allow Fortnite players to purchase in-game virtual currency and in- …

  1. matjaggard

    Deep Pockets

    Finally! Best of luck Fortnight, you'll need it against the infinite pockets of Apple's legal function.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Deep Pockets

      Finally someone with deep enough pockets to challenge their app store policies

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Deep Pockets

        Nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

      2. Microchip

        Re: Deep Pockets

        With Tencent behind Epic, they're pretty deep pockets indeed.

    2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Deep Pockets

      Somebody needs to launch a Fortnight mod where "Castle Fortnight" defends itself from inhuman wave assaults by the hellish hordes of Apple's lawyers!!

      1. baud Bronze badge

        Re: Deep Pockets

        So just like the original Fortnite game, before it transformed into the current battle royal game?

  2. DS999

    After all the appeals

    This should be neatly settled by 2026 or so.

    BTW Google also pulled the app from their app store - if Fortnite was smart they would have only done this in Apple's hoping to put some pressure on them from hardcore Fortnite fans who might be willing to switch to Android to get it. This way they are cut off from them both (other than Android sideload) Maybe that was the point though, that Apple and Google may not be a monopoly, but they are a duopoly and when they have the same rules you are locked out of mobile gaming entirely.

    If this goes against Apple/Google I wonder what happens to stuff like Sony and XBox and their much tighter control over games for their platforms?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: After all the appeals

      Neither Sony nor Borkzilla have any clause mandating a fee over in-game purchases, so nothing will happen there.

      1. BrownishMonstr Bronze badge

        Re: After all the appeals

        Plus they're dedicated gaming computers, which though you can download some apps, are still used very largely for gaming.

        Smartphones on the other hand are dedicated call and messaging computers, but I would confidently say they aren't largely used for those functions. Web browsing, gaming, and various other things are also used on these.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "BTW Google also pulled the app from their app store"

      Well, that does show that the app stores are a cartel - thereby violating antitrust laws anyway. Moreover you don't need to be a monopoly to break them, a "dominant position" is enough.

      1. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: "BTW Google also pulled the app from their app store"

        Accoding to UK Law, 25% market share constitutes a monopoly

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "BTW Google also pulled the app from their app store"

          Although possibly the largest single brand sold in the UK, iOS had a bit under 25% last year, Android as a whole, over 70% but spread across the various brands. Unless there are any figures for this year, no single supplier is a monopoly in the UK as yet but Apple are perilously close to reaching that threshold, which can trigger all sorts of red flags and closer watching of their antics by TPTB.

    3. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: After all the appeals

      BTW Google also pulled the app from their app store - if Fortnite was smart they would have only done this in Apple's hoping to put some pressure on them from hardcore Fortnite fans who might be willing to switch to Android to get it.

      Fortnite started out as a side-load on Android and had no shortage of players. It's only relatively recently that they joined the Play Store. You can still download the Android apk from the Epic website.

      Which is probably why they're asking for the iOS issue to be handled separate to Google Play.

      Apple is a much more clear-cut monopoly. Google are a bit trickier since it's perfectly possible to sideload or use other stores, but Google have made a song-and-dance about "anything not from the Play Store is malware". It's not the same sort of monopoly as Apple have, but they're still throwing their weight around to disparage competitors, in a manner that Epic would describe as unreasonable to the point of illegality. And they're trying to shame both over their 30% cut from store sales.

      Nobody would care if Apple were taking 5% for providing the Store platform and CDN infrastructure. Claiming 30% is - and always has been - a bit of a pisstake.

    4. Michael Strorm

      Re: After all the appeals

      > This should be neatly settled by 2026 or so

      I suspect it will be resolved within a f... er, within a couple of weeks.

  3. RM Myers Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Unfortunately, Apple will win

    Apple has been behaving like a monopoly for decades (remember the Mac clones), and they have always been able to get away with it by virtue of claiming they were part of a larger industry. Thus they called macs PC's when the monopoly like behavior was questioned in the 1980-1990's, even though the software environment was totally incompatible, but marketed them as if they were somehow a different product. It is their game plan - be unique enough to be able to build a walled garden, but not unique enough to meet the threshold for being a different product and thus having enough market share to meet the criteria as a monopoly.

    Right now, Google and Apple are acting like monopolies (duopoly), but using each other as a defense against being considered a monopoly in smart phone software. I don't see Epic winning, but I wish they would. Maybe then the IOS software environment would be freed up from Apple's rules, and I could actually get third party apps on my iphone that didn't have the exact same bugs as Apple's own apps.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Unfortunately, Apple will win

      Epic simply have to prove that the context is iOS. If they can win that argument then Apple lose.

      It will take a decade as they'll appeal all the way - Apple can afford to drag it out, so they will.

      Whether Epic have deep enough pockets remains to be seen.

      Google are likely safe from this argument because the Play store is not a monopoly in the context of Android. Other Android app stores are available - just discouraged.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Unfortunately, Apple will win

        Although most monopolies law is rather loose. Even 30-40% of a market can be considered a monopoly, if it can be justified. And of course it’s not the monopoly itself that’s illegal, but the abuse of it. So even if Apple can somehow successfully claim that the market is all smartphones, even though iOS obviously can’t use Android software - they’re still enough of the total market to be declared monopoly abusers.

        The fact that Fortnite were chucked out of both the market leading stores on the same day, and both charge exactly the same price, pretty much proves their case. But this is the law, and it’s never that simple. Or quick.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Unfortunately, Apple will win

          I would love to see Visa and Mastercard both decide to charge a 30% commission on payments to Apple or the iStore

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately, Apple will win

      "Thus they called macs PC's when the monopoly like behavior was questioned in the 1980-1990's,"

      Wasn't the 90s when Apple ran their "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" ad campaign specifically to show how they were NOT a PC?

      1. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: Unfortunately, Apple will win

        Wasn't the 90s when Apple ran their "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" ad campaign specifically to show how they were NOT a PC?

        2006-2009, though it seems like longer ago.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    With Google removing Fortnite and also being sued

    the stage is set for an almighty legal shootout.

    I would imagine that Apple and Google would try to get the cases conjoined and then they could fight Epic together.

    A wonderful time to be a staff lawyer (on all sides)

    For the rest of us... sit back, get the popcorn in and see how this plays out.

    I expect that the likes of Spotify will join in on Epic's side.

    I hope whoever loses has a viable 'Plan B' as someone is going to [see icon]

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: With Google removing Fortnite and also being sued

      "I would imagine that Apple and Google would try to get the cases conjoined and then they could fight Epic together.""

      Well, that would be intereseting, wouldn't it? Right now, Google and Apple can play the card of "we're part of a bigger market, so how can either of us have a monopoly?"

      Now I'm no lawyer, but I imagine that if the cases were joined in such a manner, when combined with the near simultaneous kick-out of Fortnite from both the official app ecosystems, could potentially be argued as a cartel action, immediately destroying the "part of a bigger market" defence.

      Definitely popcorn time...

  5. cipnt

    Epic is right

    Epic is right – there's no technical reason for Apple to force in-app payments on developers, it's all just greed disguised as security policy.

    Their commission is exorbitant considering a card payment processor takes just 1-2% commission.

    It's extremely brave for Epic to go against both Apple and Google at the same time considering the loss of earnings and lack of alternative for users, but probably there's a strategic reason for thes and it's not just a coincidence. After all, they had adverts, websites and lawyers ready for this moment - they knew it was coming.

    Amazon tried to fight the App/Play Stores with their own weapons (alternative app store for Android, blocking competitors' products in their store, blocking their services on iOS) but eventually had to give in. So unfortunately the odds seem to be against Epic who have less leverage.

    1. ZenaB

      Re: Epic is right

      In-app payments I'm fine with being forced through the store - it makes it quicker and easier for the users as they don't need to sign up again and add credit card details to ReallySecureHonestStore.com™

      What I don't believe is right is taking 30% of those purchases. 30% of the app, well okay, they did handle the store and distribution for you. For an in-app credit purchase of say, £10, how exactly did they provide £3 of value? These should either be a way lower percentage, capped to a certain amount or better a flat amount regardless of purchase (given the effort is the same).

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Re: Epic is right

        How about capping the in-app purchase tax at the actual level of corporation tax Apple pays.

        1. Why Not?

          Re: Epic is right

          Apple will pay you to build your castle?

          wow!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gambling Apps?

    So when I load up my gambling app for this weekend’s footie, Apple take 30 percent of my deposits?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gambling Apps?

      And probably 30% of the winnings

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gambling Apps?

        Holy shit! I’ve just realised that they must have taken 30 percent of the electric and gas bills I paid yesterday? And probably 30% of everything I’ve ever earned since I installed the app?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Gambling Apps?

          Those would be payments for "physical" (yes, I know, but the law probably calls that a tangible product) and/or items for use unrelated to the app as per the facts in the article.

  7. cookieMonster
    WTF?

    The real story here

    Is that Apple replied to the reg!!!

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The real story here

      Just when you 2020 was finally out of astonishing events...

      Next you'll be telling me they've sent an invite to the next iPhone launch...

    2. Brad16800

      Re: The real story here

      That was my take away from this article as well. First time i've seen it happen.

      30% does seem like extortion but the tricky thing I find with all this (play store as well) is they did basically make it the cost of using/selling things on their store. Most retail sales wholesale price is 50-70% of the retail price, if you remember what a retail store was.

      As already stated by others Android doesn't lock you in so yea it's leaning on monopoly in that case. I just feel a bit 50/50 on it all even more tricky with the whole digital/physical purchase distinction.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The real story here

        Don't forget that the likes of Tesco, Asda etc will often charge a food maker money to display their wares in stores. This is before the supermarket pays for the stock that it buys and later sells. It is an upfront payment. Don't pay and we don't take your product no matter how good and tasty it is or if we do, it is only in 1 store and in the most underused part of that store. The 'mob' can't lose.

        The more you pay, the bigger the display you get.

        That's modern capitalism folks. Everyone pays all the time.

  8. big_D Silver badge

    Brilliant!

    The video is absolutely brilliant. I love the attention to detail, the maggot in the apple head, for example.

    Whether you think Epic or Apple are right or wrong or the video is a brilliant piece of satire.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Brilliant!

      Yeah, Epic's PR campaign might be a bigger story than the court case - in the context of questions currently being raised in Congress about Apple and Google's app stores.

  9. Peter Ford

    Not quite straightforward...

    As far as I can tell from Apple's Ts&Cs, there is no block on selling features for an iOS app outside of the Apple Store, but you cannot sell for less than you do in the Apple Store. You also can't tell people that there is an alternative payment option within the app or any connected marketing (you can't have a link in the app, or the Apple Store description text, to your website where you could purchase the same thing at the same price.) That appears to include selling the Android version of the same thing.

    So Apple say Epic are breaking the rules by discounting the purchases (and advertising it). If that's not the definition of 'anti-competitive practices' then I don't know what is...

    One approach (which is probably what most smaller developers do) is use Apple's pricing tiers to ensure that there is still profit after Apple take their cut, and then enjoy the greater profit when the features are bought outside of the Apple walled garden if they can somehow surreptitiously persuade users to do that...

  10. Oliver Mayes

    Ironic that the company that has made a reputation for buying up exclusive PC rights to popular games, forcing people to buy them from the Epic store or go without, are now whining about another company having a monopoly on their own platform.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "Ironic that the company that has made a reputation for buying up exclusive PC rights to popular games, forcing people to buy them from the Epic store or go without, are now whining about another company having a monopoly on their own platform."

      If only I could somehow install another game platform on my PC, so I didn't need to use Epic.

      Your argument just ran out of Steam.

      1. Eguro

        You realise that the other game platform wouldn't have that game that Epic bought exclusivity for, right?

        You realise this was all done to avoid having to actually compete against Steam - and therefore actually having to make a decent product or do something that helps us - the consumers. I would like competition between marketplaces - to encourage cheaper games, better features etc., but that's a fight that Epic is scared to go into; hence the exclusivity deals.

        It was and is a horrible practice, that should not be encouraged.

    2. Kimo

      Unless the end game is forcing Apple to allow an iOS Epic store.

  11. karlkarl Silver badge

    Just two horrible "store" companies battling it out.

    This is pretty much exactly the problem with the childish "everyone wants to be the store" mentality.

    I hope they both fail.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I quite like Steam

      I like Steam. It's a way for me to buy games for linux, and with their investment in proton I can buy a bunch of old Windows games and play them too. The regular sales mean I can pick up pretty much everything I want on the cheap.

      Epic are trying to buy their way in and build market share with exclusive deals. Most of them are titles I don't care for, and wouldn't buy at full price anyway, so it doesn't affect me. (It doesn't do linux stuff either, so it really doesn't affect me!)

      Having an online marketplace to buy this stuff is a good thing as far as I'm concerned, as I'd otherwise miss out.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        Re: I quite like Steam

        The fact that Steam doesn't disclose which products have DRM and which don't makes it a deal breaker for me.

        Wine and torrents all the way! (as for licenses, I generally trade them with other like-minded individuals)

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984' "

    Oh boy, you guys are soo late on that one. We've been in 1984 since the 1970s, when Echelon was created.

    When the Internet became ubiquitous, the NSA upgraded our 1984 status by tapping all the calls under the excuse of terrorism.

    We've been in 1984 since practically my birth, and we're not getting out of it any time soon.

    Obvious icon is obvious.

    1. entfe001
      Big Brother

      Re: "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984' "

      Without leaving George Orwell's bibliography, they could have found a better analogy on Animal Farm, seeing how Apple went just like Napoleon.

    2. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984' "

      El Reg, why is Pascal's post "No longer open for votes"?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984' "

        It is. It may only be my setup, Firefox, KDE5, FreeBSD 12.1, but sometimes the vote buttons don't activate when they are right at the bottom of the screen. Scrolling the page up a little bit and they become "live".

        1. Jan 0 Silver badge

          Re: "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984' "

          Thanks for the tip. I don't know whether that was true for me (Firefox on OS X), but it's just worked this morning. Surely the coders deserve a whipping?

          1. Dinanziame Bronze badge
            Angel

            Re: "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984' "

            The site is coded in Perl. As far as I am concerned, the coders deserve a medal.

  13. iron Silver badge

    When I read about their cheaper non-Apple, non-Google payment option yesterday on various gaming sites I did wonder how long before they were thrown out of both stores. I'm glad to see it did happen and that Epic have to abide by the same rules as I do despite thinking that they are special snowflakes because they made a ridiculous pile of cash from Fortnite. Epic have been throwing their weight atound recently, their timed exclusives are damaging the PC games market and its nice to see them get their knuckles wrapped for once.

    1. nematoad Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Oh?

      "... its nice to see them get their knuckles wrapped for once."

      Ah, would that be before the knuckles were rapped or after?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Oh?

        Usually, you wrap the wounds after the rap on the knuckles. HTH :-)

  14. AndyM

    What about PS and xBox stores

    Come on chaps, what about PS and xBox, they both also take 30% cuts for anything bought in digital stores, no different to Apple/Google.

    At end of the day consoles are no different to iOS/Android just that bit more mobile.

    1. JDPower

      Re: What about PS and xBox stores

      As already stated by ay an earlier commenter: "Neither Sony nor Borkzilla have any clause mandating a fee over in-game purchases, so nothing will happen there."

  15. tiggity Silver badge

    All about the money

    The app stores (Apple & Google) are useful for app creators as handles all the visibility / install / update side of things

    For small creators, the payment system is great - you don't have to roll your own (with all the risk of something going wrong such as "cash" thefts) and if anything goes horribly wrong on payments Apple / Google sort out refunds etc as its system under their control. In return they take a hefty chunk, but you don't have cash handling risks

    If you are a massive company like Epic then you have resources to do your own bulletproof payment system - so, unlike small creators, it's really a pain how much of your cash they skim off as you don't need that "safety net" of cash handling that is great for a lone dev... So, the likes of Epic really do not want Apple / Google taking such a big cut as they dont need the safety net of Apple / Google acting as financial handling safety net.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they not read the Terms and Conditions?

    Setting aside the question of how fair it may or may not be for Apple to take a 30% cut of everything, it isn't as though Epic wasn't aware of this when they signed-up for an Apple developer account. It's right there in the Ts&Cs... I mean for fuck's sake, *I* knew about it and I'm fucking nobody.

    If they didn't like those terms, they didn't *have* to develop an iOS version of their game; nobody forced them into that ecosystem. After all, iOS only accounts for (at best) 25% of the global smartphone market - practically peanuts to be honest.

    1. Kimo

      Re: Did they not read the Terms and Conditions?

      The did. And the speed at which they sued indicates they knew exactly what would happen. But they had to put their apps on the stores to have standing to challenge in court if those rules are onerous and therefore unenforceable. Only try this trick if you are prepared to dump a lot of money into your law firm.

  17. EnviableOne Silver badge

    apple and google

    They're both as bad as each other

    both require use of their payment platform (if you wnat to be in their store)

    both take 30% for one off purchases

    both take 30% for 1st year of subscriptions and 15% there after

    both are members of a cartell to flece joe public (as app-developers pass on the cost)

    The only difference i can see, is in Android, you have the option to not use google play, in iOS you dont

  18. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I have dealt with payment processors for a number of years including ones that handle subscriptions for adult sites etc. And even they don't charge as much as 30% per transaction, you are looking at 8 to 15% for high risk sites. So what value are app developers getting for the 30% Apple and Google are taking for their cut as Paypal can make money charging only around 3% fee for handling payments?

    1. Paradroid

      It's payment processing, plus hosting, an entry in the catalogue, potential promotion. Not saying it's right - we all know it's a big fat fee for access to Apple customers, but to be fair it is more than payment processing.

      I wonder what point companies like Epic will stop calling this a monopoly and accept it as a cost of doing business. 15-20% maybe? Epic themselves are charging 12% on their own store.

  19. msobkow

    Nothing more disgusting than two huge corporations fighting over pocket change and claiming it is about "the issue", not greed. :(

  20. Nick Stallman

    #freefortnite

    I love their use of the hashtag #freefortnite because it's exactly the one thing that is absolutely not happening.

    Epic wants Fortnite to be free for themselves. They have zero intention to stop charging kids for the game's novelties.

  21. Paradroid

    Greed on all sides

    I can't see Epic winning against Apple. There are countless examples of middle men in many industries, and it's not illegal or monopolistic. Remember when CD prices were extortionate, and out of the £13.99 shop price, artists were getting about £1.50 or less. I would have some sympathy with Epic if they weren't in the app store business themselves on PC, paying developers for 12 month exclusivity.

    The more interesting case is Microsoft attacking Apple for their cloud gaming policies in the App Store. I think Apple is on shaky ground there - the argument of not being able to verify each game doesn't hold water. Check them for what? They aren't running locally. But again, Microsoft has a platform-exclusive store on the Xbox and would they allow a cloud gaming service from Sony, Apple or Google? No way. So if Microsoft pushes it against Apple, it could backfire on them.

    I am no defender of Apple or 30% shakedowns, but this all sounds very hypocritical.

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