Fortnite finds a way back onto iOS
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Tuesday, we’re exploring how Nvidia’s GeForce Now has become a proving ground for the future of mobile game distribution, starting with Fortnite’s return to iOS. Oh yeah, and Microsoft bought Activision Blizzard for nearly $70 billion. More to come on that soon.
Cloud gaming is poking a hole in Apple’s walled garden
Fortnite’s fate on iOS seemed all but sealed in September, when Epic Games was handed a resounding defeat in court in its antitrust lawsuit against Apple. And, a few months later, Apple successfully delayed the one minor victory Epic had secured until the appeals process wraps.
But Nvidia has been quietly waiting in the wings, ready to help Epic bring its battle royale hit back onto the iPhone. Last week, the two companies said they were at long last ready to give it a go with a beta launch of Fortnite on the chipmaker’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service.
The Fortnite cloud launch is an official partnership. Nvidia announced more than a year ago that it was bringing Fortnite to mobile users on GeForce Now, but it ultimately delayed the iOS version to team up with Epic for native touch controls and other improvements.
- Fortnite was removed from the Google Play Store at the same time as it was kicked off iOS, and Epic is also suing Google on similar grounds, though the case has yet to go to trial. But for the past 18 months, you’ve been able to play the desktop version of Fortnite on Android, streamed through GeForce Now.
- For iOS, Epic wanted a more accessible solution that wouldn’t require using a controller. That meant native touch controls, which this new beta supposedly offers, though it’s unclear right now how the experience compares to the original native Fortnite app.
- Nvidia is an ideal partner because its cloud gaming service is not designed to sell new games, but let customers play games they already own. That means Nvidia doesn’t take a cut of transactions or operate a store of its own. As court documents in the Fortnite trial revealed, Epic chose not to make Fortnite available on Microsoft’s competing cloud service because of those very concerns.
GeForce Now has become cloud gaming’s shining star. Nvidia’s service, due to its smart business model, has emerged as the one cloud service that seems to have a bright future. Showing that it's willing to work closely with game makers to optimize titles for the cloud could pay off for Nvidia in the long run, when cloud gaming is more mainstream.
- While Amazon and Google’s competing services are struggling with talent retention and a lack of new games, Nvidia has been signing up developers left and right to add new games every week.
- The state of GeForce Now today is a far cry from two years ago, when Nvidia found itself in hot water for adding publishers’ libraries without their permission. Large developers like Activision Blizzard and Bethesda pulled their games, but Nvidia shifted to an opt-in model that appears to have soothed tensions.
- Nvidia’s economic interests are closely aligned with its cloud gaming platform. The chipmaker still makes a bulk of its revenue from high-end graphics chips, but one of its fastest-growing segments is its data-center business, which grew 55% year-over-year in the previous quarter.
Nvidia offers game makers a way around Apple’s restrictions. Through its fights with Epic and other tech rivals, Apple has shown its complete and total unwillingness to compromise with regards to cloud gaming and App Store payment restrictions.
- Apple does, however, point to the mobile browser as an alternative solution. Nvidia’s platform is now the perfect testbed for challenging Apple’s mobile stranglehold.
- Microsoft tried to compromise with Apple on cloud gaming behind the scenes for months, and then took its frustrations public. Now, both Google and Microsoft use mobile Safari to deliver game-streaming technology.
- But Epic has strategically chosen Nvidia to be its partner, and for Fortnite to set an example for whether the cloud can reasonably compete with native mobile distribution. If successful, it could pave the way for more developers to try and circumvent the App Store, and Apple’s fees, down the line.
There are quite a few hurdles standing in both Epic and Nvidia’s path to success with Fortnite on iOS. Cloud gaming still requires a fast, preferably tethered internet connection, both of which don’t mix well with mobile when you want to game on the go. There’s also likely a limited pool of players who will want to access Fortnite on mobile by paying a monthly $10 subscription to access GeForce Now. (There is a free tier, but with heavy restrictions.)
But the promise of bringing Fortnite back to the iPhone is tantalizing enough to pay attention to how well this works and how much traction it gains, if only as a form of validation for the cloud and its role in loosening the grip Apple and Google have on mobile gaming.
- "I don't really look at it as validation. When I'm talking to our teams, I talk about it as an inevitability. So for us, we should continue to innovate, continue to compete, because the things that we're doing might be advantages that we have in the market today, but they're just based on us going first, not that we've created something that no one else can go create.” —Xbox chief Phil Spencer reacted to news of Sony’s planned Xbox Game Pass competitor in an interview with IGN this week.
- “I always want to be a part of the conversation, even if sometimes that finds me in the midst of a loud one. Appreciate y’all sharing your thoughts and giving me a lot to think about. I’m just a storyteller out here trying to tell my story to whomever will hear and hoping I can help others do the same. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” —Voice actor Troy Baker found himself at the center of an NFT storm this past weekend when he revealed his involvement with a somewhat nebulous AI crypto project called Voiceverse, and he later tried to quell the storm. But it marks yet more evidence of the intense NFT backlash in the gaming community.
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In other news
The biggest acquisition ever. Just a week after Take-Two Interactive made the biggest-ever video game acquisition with its purchase of Zynga, Microsoft has gone quite a few steps further and agreed to acquire Activision Blizzard in a $68.7 billion deal with earth-shattering implications for the industry.
Ubisoft jumps into the cloud. The French publisher doesn’t yet operate its own cloud gaming service, but it’s now partnering with white-label service provider Gamestream, VentureBeat reported.
The battle royale clone wars. PUBG parent company Krafton has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. against Apple, Google and rival battle royale developer Garena over the distribution of PUBG competitor Garena Free Fire, which Krafton says constitutes copyright infringement.
The great NFT divide. The backlash against crypto technologies in the gaming space has created a severe rift between players and the most well-financed new sector of the industry. But it’s not clear whether the torrent of criticism is enough to stop NFT gaming from going mainstream.
Activision Blizzard’s firing spree. The publisher has fired more than 36 people and disciplined dozens more since bombshell revelations about its sexist and discriminatory workplace culture surfaced last summer, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. The report said CEO Bobby Kotick held this information back out of fear it would further harm the company’s reputation.
Ubisoft’s NFT flop. The company’s controversial first round of NFTs in Ghost Recon Breakpoint have barely garnered sales interest on token marketplaces, selling for paltry sums in a tiny handful of transactions. In interviews with Waypoint, buyers said their interest stemmed from curiosity.
Microsoft bids farewell to the Xbox One. The Xbox One has been discontinued since the end of 2020, Microsoft confirmed to The Verge, as the company focuses entirely on its new Xbox Series X and Series S consoles. Sony, meanwhile, will continue producing PS4s through 2022.The FTC is investigating Meta’s Oculus VR acquisition. It’s part of the federal government’s broader antitrust probe.
A happy ending for Wordle
A controversy around the viral daily guessing game Worlde erupted last week after clone apps flooded the App Store, only for Apple to remove them. Yet it looks like this particular internet dust-up might result in some actual good in the world. That’s thanks to Steven Cravotta, a mobile app developer and the creator of Wordle! before Wordle.
Cravotta’s app, which remains active on the App Store, was not in fact a Wordle copycat, but its own unique game Cravotta launched five years ago. It shares a name with the browser game created by Josh Wardle, but they differ in design. In a nice twist, however, Cravotta discovered his dormant app had exploded in popularity due to the association, and he and Wardle have now teamed up to donate proceeds to the Boost West Oakland youth charity.
A MESSAGE FROM BABBEL
The #1 language learning app, Babbel gives you bite-sized lessons in a variety of languages. It'll have you speaking the basics in just 3 weeks. Plus, it has podcasts, games, videos and more to switch things up! Get 60% off today.
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