Fortnite is back on the iPhone, thanks to new partnership between Epic Games and Microsoft that sidesteps the App Store ban Apple handed down back in August 2020.
The game is available to stream starting Thursday in the 26 countries around the world where Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming is available in beta. It's part of a new push at Xbox to utilize its Azure cloud platform and Microsoft's existing investments in cross-platform play to enable what the company is calling Xbox Everywhere. "We want to empower everyone around the world to play the games they want, with the people they want, on the devices they already own," wrote Catherine Gluckstein, Microsoft’s vice president and product chief for Xbox Cloud Gaming, wrote in a blog post.
Play Fortnite at xbox.com/play with Xbox Cloud Gaming for freewww.youtube.com
Since Fortnite was banned almost two years ago from both Apple and Google's app stores, Epic has waged a bitter antitrust fight against both companies, resulting in an explosive lawsuit against Apple that went to trial one year ago. The resulting outcome was not favorable to Epic, but it did apply significant pressure to Apple, and the case is now caught up in a web of appeals as Apple attempts to avoid making court-ordered changes to its software business.
Meanwhile, regulatory pressure in the U.S. and overseas scrutinizing Apple and Google's treatment of developers and the companies' 30% commission on digital goods has forced both tech giants to compromise in various ways, while momentum has also been building for unprecedented app store legislation like the EU's Digital Markets Act and the U.S.'s Open App Markets Act. Now, while Epic may not have a way to return to the App Store and Play Store on its own terms as it once hoped, the game-maker does have browser-based cloud services it can rely on while it continues its legal fights. The Google antitrust case has yet to go to trial, though Fortnite can be downloaded on Android phones directly from Epic's website.
This isn't the first time a cloud gaming service has been used to circumvent Apple and Google's app store bans on Fortnite. Epic and Nvidia teamed up last year to release a cloud-based version of Fortnite, which launched back in January, on the chipmaker's GeForce Now platform. That version of the game required you sign up for the platform and use either a restricted free tier or one of Nvidia's paid plans, but it nonetheless was a fully fledged version of the battle royale hit streaming from a remote server.
Microsoft says its new partnership with Epic won't involve any restrictions whatsoever. You need only a Microsoft account and an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, or a Windows PC with internet access. You won't need to sign up for Xbox Game Pass and you won't need any recurring subscription or membership to any Microsoft product. The game will live at xbox.com/play, and it will support controller play or native touch controls if you're playing on a smartphone or tablet.
"It’s an important step to add a free-to-play title to the cloud gaming catalog as we continue our cloud journey. We’re starting with Fortnite and will look to bring more free-to-play games people love in the future," Gluckstei explained. "At Xbox we want to make gaming accessible to the 3 billion players around the world, and cloud has an important role in that mission. Quite simply we want you to have more choice in both the games you play and the way you choose to play them."