Fortnite was yanked from app stores, and now Epic Games is suing Apple and Google
It's a battle royale.
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.
Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.