Dispute over in-app purchases: Apple and Google throw "Fortnite" out of app stores

Fortnite is one of the most popular online games, with users spending millions on in-app purchases to get better. Apple and Google earn money every time. The "Fortnite" development company Epic is now daring the test of strength and is punished by the tech giants.

The makers of the popular online game "Fortnite" are daring a unique test of strength with Apple and Google. With several hundred million fans behind them, they want to break the app store rules of smartphone platforms. The "Fortnite" developer company Epic Games introduced the possibility of buying content at a lower price by avoiding in-app purchases on Apple's iPhone and iPad as well as on devices with the Google Android system. The reaction was immediate: "Fortnite" only disappeared from the app store for Apple's mobile devices and a few hours later from Google's Play Store. Epic promptly filed a lawsuit against Apple.

The dispute is essentially about the 30 percent share that Apple and Google retain from in-app purchases. There has been criticism of the amount of the levy for some time – and in the case of Apple also of the fact that the developers cannot offer alternative payment methods for in-app purchases. The music service Spotify submitted a complaint to the competition authorities of the EU Commission. With Thursday's advance, Epic is now the spokesman for a downright rebellion against the system.

Epic announced to its users on iPhones and iPads that they would be denied new content in the next version of "Fortnite" – even if they already had the app on their devices. Epic called on customers to complain to Apple about it using the hashtag #FreeFortnite. Fortnite is used by more than 350 million players, according to Epic.

Epic taunts with video

The situation is slightly different for users of Android devices: Google not only lets apps load from its own Play Store, but also from other sources. Apple rejects this approach with reference to the potential risks for users from prepared apps. Apple pointed out that Epic violated the app store rules. "They apply equally to every developer and serve to keep the store safe for our users." Epic introduced the new feature with the intention of violating the guidelines. In any case, Google stressed that developers had to stick to the rules to stay in the Play Store. In the past few years, Epic had temporarily sold "Fortnite" on Android devices bypassing the Play Store.


Apple always states that by stipulating that in-app purchases have to be processed through the platform's system, they want to protect customers from fraud. At the same time, some subscription services such as Netflix are allowed to conclude contracts with users on their own websites. The users can then log in on their iPhones and iPads – and no fee is payable to Apple for the providers.

Epic was well prepared for the showdown. The company not only quickly had a 60-page lawsuit ready, but also a video that parodied a legendary advertising clip of the group from the year. In "1984", based on George Orwell's book of the same name, Apple presented the rebellion against a totalitarian world. The clip shown in 1984 was intended to initiate Apple's entry into the IBM-dominated PC market. Epic now recreated the video as a computer animation, the role of the dictator is played by a figure with a head in the form of an Apple logo.