Earlier today Epic began to offer Fortnite players a direct payment option for V-Bucks to get around Apple's App Store fees. Now Apple has retaliated.
Apple has removed Fortnite from the App Store. The game's page in the App Store is now blank, and the title says "@@softwareName@@ on the App Store". Fortnite is still available for Android users in the Play Store as of this post.
In a statement to The Verge, Apple explains that today Epic "took the unfortunate step of violating App Store guidelines" and so as a result, Fortnite has been pulled from the App Store. Apple says that Epic added a new feature that wasn't approved and did so "with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments."
Apple goes on to say that it'll make "every effort" to work with Epic to resolve the violations and get Fortnite back into the App Store.
Here's Apple's full statement:
"Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. 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 has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem - including it’s tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. 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."
Shortly after Apple pulled Fortnite from the App Store, Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple. The company says that it's filing the legal papers in order to "end Apple's unfair and anti-competitive actions" that are used it "unlawfully maintain its monopoly" in two markets: the iOS app distribution market and the iOS in-app payment processing market.
Epic Games has filed legal papers in response to Apple, read more here: https://t.co/c4sgvxQUvb
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
Earlier today, Epic Games began offering an "Epic direct payment" option for buying V-Bucks in the Fortnite games for Android and iOS. Buying V-Bucks with an Epic direct payment would offer savings compared to buying through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. For example, 1,000 V-Bucks would cost $9.99 when buying through Apple or Google, but you could get them for $7.99 using the Epic direct payment.
This was meant as a way for Epic to get around the 30% cut that Apple and Google normally take from in-app purchases. Epic explicitly confirmed this, describing the fee that Apple and Google collect from in-app purchases "exorbitant" and saying that if Apple and Google lower their fees, Epic will pass those savings onto consumers.
Apple removing Fortnite from the App Store is just the latest instance in the battle between Epic Games and Apple and Google over app store fees. When Fortnite first launched on Android, it was only available through sideloading to avoid giving Google a cut of the in-app purchases, though it eventually did arrive in the Play Store. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has also called out Apple over App Store fees in the past.