Free Fortnite

Tim Sweeney picks a fight with Apple – with Fortnite parody of classic 1984 Apple advert

Well that escalated quickly.

Tim Sweeney’s long-running cold war with Apple over the cost of doing business on the App Store, exploded last night into a full scale legal battle. The Epic Games CEO kicked things into motion by encouraging users of the iOS version of Fortnite to circumvent Apple’s own payment system and instead pay Epic directly.

The response was predictable, with Apple pulling Fortnite from the App Store. Thereby instantly preventing millions of users from installing or updating the game on their devices. Google quickly took similar action on its Play Store, although Epic seems more focused on fighting Apple for now at least.

Fortnite payment choice
The choice that iOS Fortnite players were given, briefly.

In a call to arms to its community Epic launched a propaganda war under the #FreeFortnite hashtag. A blog statement on its site placed the blame squarely on Apple’s practices, saying: “Apple is keeping prices high so they can collect 30% of your payments, and is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to you! Join the fight against @AppStore on social media with #FreeFortnite”

That was accompanied by a video which parodied Apple’s own 1984 advert, in which the company positioned itself as the freedom fighter against IBM’s Big Brother… how times change.

On a legal front, Epic Games was prepared for the pulldown of the Fortnite iOS app, immediately filing a lengthy lawsuit against Apple for anti-competitive and monopolistic practices – and a further, similar one against Google. The Apple suit again evoked the 1984 struggle in its opening statement.

““Fast forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. “

“In 1984, the fledgling Apple computer company released the Macintosh—the first mass-market, consumer-friendly home computer. The product launch was announced with a breathtaking advertisement evoking George Orwell’s 1984 that cast Apple as a beneficial, revolutionary force breaking IBM’s monopoly over the computing technology market…”

“Fast forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. 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.”

Apple made its own statement in reply, saying the Epic had broken the guidelines for the App Store that it had agreed to.

“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,” Apple said in a statement.

And it reiterated a claim that Epic was looking for a special arrangement, something which Sweeney has vehemently denied in the past.

“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.”

Where does it all go from here? Well to court for sure. Usually the court of public opinion might force a settlement far sooner than that long-winded route, however with Sweeney apparently fighting on a point of principle (one that’s worth millions of dollars to Epic of course), this one will likely run and run.

And with Apple also under attack for monopolistic practices both in the US and the EU, Epic is not alone in taking on the goliath tech company. Just recently Microsoft also fell foul of restrictions, unable to place xCloud on the store, and Facebook too had to strip back its Facebook Gaming app in order to get it onto iOS.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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