Anyone who as a developer wants to bring their app to the smartphones of the world can hardly ignore Apple and Google. The two US corporations dominate the market with their app stores, and anyone who wants to offer their programs through them has to play by their rules. The developers of the game “Fortnite” no longer want to accept that.
The dispute is not only about symbolic freedoms, but also about a lot of money. Because Apple and Google are demanding a share of the sales that developers make with their apps: At Apple, it is 30 percent that the company withholds from in-app purchases. App providers are also not allowed to refer to alternative payment options outside of the app; a practice that has been criticized for a long time. The music streaming market leader Spotify filed a complaint with the EU Commission in March 2019.
Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, makes money on this game mainly from purchases made by players in the app. This week, the company advised its users that they can get their purchases outside the app cheaper – without the share that Apple or Google withhold. The two tech companies didn’t like that and threw the Fortnite app out of their stores. So they can no longer be downloaded or updated. Epic Games was apparently prepared for this and announced that it would sue Apple and Google in a US court. The company published the relevant documents on its website.
That was obviously not enough for the developers: Epic Games also posted a video on Thursday evening with the title “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” and the hashtag #FreeFortnite online. It’s full of allusions to the totalitarian dystopia “1984” by George Orwell – and an animated copy of a historic Apple advertisement. In the original, it was the then young Apple company that advertised its first Macintosh computer. In the spot, Apple, represented by a young woman, symbolically smashes the power of the system with a hammer. In the Fortnite video, Apple is now the evil ruler that the game developer’s rainbow-colored unicorn hammer hits.
Apple and Google argue with security
The message of the video: Fortnite dared to question the app store monopoly. Now the system strikes back. With the hashtag #FreeFortnite, Epic Games is calling on players to support the campaign. That could be very uncomfortable for Apple and Google. Because the turn-based shooter Fortnite is one of the most successful games in the world, more than 350 million people worldwide are said to have played it according to the company.
Apple and Google argue in statements citing various US media that the ban on external payment options is primarily about user safety. The rules are therefore intended to prevent app providers from luring their users to dubious external shops. These regulations would apply equally to all providers, and whoever violated them like Fortnite, their app would just be removed from the stores.