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Fortnite was yanked from app stores, and now Epic Games is suing Apple and Google

It's a battle royale.

Fortnite was yanked from app stores, and now Epic Games is suing Apple and Google


The capstone on the whole thing came when Epic hosted a party inside Fortnite, called the "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite."

Image: Epic

The long-simmering spat between Fortnite maker Epic Games and Apple boiled over on Thursday, leaving Fortnite kicked out of the App Store and Apple with a new lawsuit on its hands. Google then also removed Fortnite from its Google Play Store, but it can still be downloaded directly from Epic. And once again, Epic had a ready-to-go lawsuit that it filed against Google.

The clash started when Fortnite announced the "Fortnite Mega Drop." Advertised as a way for players to save money when purchasing V-Bucks in the game, it gave users the option to buy through Apple's payment processing system for the full price, or buy directly from Epic for a savings of up to 20%. Developers are banned from processing their own payments when users buy digital goods, although apps selling physical products like shoes are allowed. Epic's inability to process its own payments or build a competing gaming store has long irked its CEO Tim Sweeney, who has called the 30% cut Apple takes as "absolutely abhorrent."

The "Mega Drop" release was an obvious and knowing violation of App Store rules and a clear taunt to Apple to see if it would enforce them. And Apple did.

Apple pulled Fortnite from the App Store just a few hours later. "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," Apple said in a statement. "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 clearly knew that was coming, and so that wasn't the end of it. Instead, Epic turned around and filed legal action against Apple, asking for injunctive relief and an end to what it calls anti-competitive actions in "two distinct, multi-billion dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market." It's not seeking any monetary damages.

"Apple's removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-app Payment Processing Market," Epic said in the lawsuit.

The capstone on the whole thing came when Epic hosted a party inside Fortnite, called the "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite," which brought players into the game for a short, virtually shot-for-shot remake of Apple's famous "1984" ad, only this time with Fortnite characters fighting back against the evil Apple empire.

"Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly," the scrolling text at the end of the short video said. "In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984.'" Epic asked the same of the courts in its lawsuit: "Epic respectfully requests this Court to enjoin Apple from continuing to impose its anti-competitive restrictions on the iOS ecosystem and ensure 2020 is not like '1984.'"

While it's response to Google didn't have a coordinated video campaign (or at least one that we've seen yet), Epic's lawsuit does call out Google's original motto of "Don't Be Evil." Google didn't comment on the lawsuit, but said it looked forward to working with Epic and bring Fortnite back to the Play Store.

"Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize," Epic said in its complaint.

Update: This story was updated at 5 p.m. PT to reflect Google kicking Fortnite off the Play Store, again at 6:45 p.m. PT to reflect Epic's lawsuit against Google, and at 8:15 p.m. PT to add a response from Google.

Protocol | Workplace

The pay gap persists for Black women

"The pay gap is a multifaceted problem and any time you have a complex problem, there's not a single solution that's going to solve it."

For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Photo: Christine/Unsplash

Last year's racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd led many tech companies to commit to promoting equity within their organizations, including working toward pay equity. But despite efforts, the wage gap for Black women still persists. For every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Black women are paid just 63 cents, according to the American Community Survey Census data.

Black Women's Equal Pay Day on Tuesday represents the estimated number of days into the year it would take for Black women to make what their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts made at the end of the previous year, according to the organization Equal Pay Today. And while the responsibility to fix the pay gap falls mostly on companies to rectify, some female employees have taken matters into their own hands and held companies to their asserted values by negotiating higher pay.

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Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

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What comes to mind when you think of AI? In the past, it might have been the Turing test, a sci-fi character or IBM's Deep Blue-defeating chess champion Garry Kasparov. Today, instead of copying human intelligence, we're seeing immense progress made in using AI to unobtrusively simplify and enrich our own intelligence and experiences. Natural language processing, modern encrypted security solutions, advanced perception and imaging capabilities, next-generation data management and logistics, and automotive assistance are some of the many ways AI is quietly yet unmistakably driving some of the latest advancements inside our phones, PCs, cars and other crucial 21st century devices. And the combination of 5G and AI is enabling a world with distributed intelligence where AI processing is happening on devices and in the cloud.

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Protocol | Workplace

Tech company hybrid work policies are becoming more flexible, not less

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are already changing their hybrid policies to allow for more flexibility.

Photo: FG Trade/Getty Images

Twitter, LinkedIn and Asana are all loosening up their strategies around hybrid work, allowing for more flexibility before even fully reopening their offices.

In the last week and a half, Twitter announced it's adopting an asynchronous-first approach, and both Asana and LinkedIn said they would increase the amount of time their employees can work remotely.

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Activision Blizzard scrambles to repair its toxic image

Blizzard President J. Allen Brack is the first executive to depart amid the sexual harassment crisis.

Activision Blizzard doesn't seem committed to lasting change.

Photo: Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

As Activision Blizzard's workplace crisis rages on into its third week, the company is taking measures to try to calm the storm — to little avail. On Tuesday, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack, who took the reins at the developer responsible for World of Warcraft back in 2018, resigned. He's to be replaced by executives Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra, who will co-lead the studio in a power-sharing agreement some believe further solidifies CEO Bobby Kotick's control over the subsidiary.

Nowhere in Blizzard's statement about Brack's departure does it mention California's explosive sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit at the heart of the saga. The lawsuit, filed last month, resulted last week in a 500-person walkout at Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine. (Among the attendees was none other than Ybarra, the new studio co-head.)

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

Alabama Amazon workers will likely get a second union vote

An NLRB judge said that Amazon "usurped" the NLRB by pushing for a mailbox to be installed in front of its facility, and also that the company violated laws that protect workers from monitoring of their behavior during union elections.

An NLRB judge ruled that Amazon has violated union election rules

Image: Amazon

Bessemer, Alabama warehouse workers will likely get a second union vote because of Amazon's efforts to have a USPS ballot box installed just outside of the Bessemer warehouse facility during the mail-in vote, as well as other violations of union vote rules, according to an NLRB ruling published Tuesday morning.

While union organizers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, lost the first vote by more than a 2:1 margin, a second election will be scheduled and held unless Amazon successfully appeals the ruling. Though Amazon is the country's second-largest private employer, no unionization effort at the company has ever been successful.

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