Fortnight Has Laid a Perfect Antitrust Trap for Apple and Google

Everyone is mad about Apple’s App Store guidelines right now, especially when it comes to cloud gaming services. Microsoft isn’t bringing Project xCloud to iOS. Google’s Stadia app can’t let iPhone users actually play games. Facebook also had to axe the ability to play games for its Facebook Gaming iOS app to be allowed in the App Store. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of smaller, non-gaming app developers who have had their apps kicked out of the App Store after seemingly arbitrary enforcement of Apple’s guidelines. But Fortnite developer Epic Games took a bold step toward telling Apple what it thinks of the company’s App Store policies, possibly attempting a loophole to get around things. Fortnite has now been kicked out of both Apple and Google’s stores, and Epic is now suing Apple.

Yesterday, Epic Games introduced the ability to pay the company directly for V-Bucks in the Fortnite app on the App Store and in Google Play store for Android, bypassing the in-app payment methods in both apps. On top of that, Epic Games is giving users a 20% discount for using the direct payment method. According to Apple, in a statement to the Verge, this is in violation of App Store guidelines, which states that apps offering in-game currency for real money cannot use a direct payment method.

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Before removal, a screenshot of the Fornite app on iOS clearly showed that users have the option to either purchase V-bucks through the App Store or send a direct payment to Epic Games.

“Today, we’re also introducing a new way to pay on iOS and Android: Epic direct payment. When you choose to use Epic direct payments, you save up to 20% as Epic passes along payment processing savings to you,” Epic Games announced in a press release this morning.

Illustration for article titled Fortnite May Have Just Laid the Perfect Antitrust Trap for Apple—and They Fell For It [Another Update: Google Just Kicked Fortnite Out of Its App Store, Too]
Image: Epic Games

Google’s policies also seem to prevent developers from using anything but an in-app payment system.

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Epic Games pointed out that both Apple and Google collect a 30% fee, and that if users choose to pay through either store’s app they will not benefit from the 20% discount—hence the lower price on the direct payment option.

“If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”

Damn, Epic. Shots fired.

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The problem for Apple is that both it and Google have policies related to purchases that are consumed outside of their respective app stores. Both allow users to make payments outside of the app.

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Fortnite is available on multiple platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS, and users can link their profiles together so they can play with the same account across all platforms. This means that someone could purchase V-Bucks through the Android and iOS apps and spend them at a later date from their console or PC. So technically those users appear to be purchasing “goods or services” that can be consumed outside of the app.

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Epic has taken legal action to end Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions on mobile device marketplaces. The papers are available to read here.

From the legal filing: “Rather than tolerate this healthy competition and compete on the merits of its offering, Apple responded by removing Fortnite from sale on the App Store, which means that new users cannot download the app, and users who have already downloaded prior versions of the app from the App Store cannot update it to the latest version. This also means that Fortnite players who downloaded their app from the App Store will not receive updates to Fortnite through the App Store, either automatically or by searching the App Store for the update. 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.”

Source: Fortnight Has Laid a Perfect Antitrust Trap for Apple

And the fallout has been some compelling entertainment in these quarantine times: Apple swiftly kicked Fortnite from its store, then Epic struck back with a lawsuit and arranged an in-game event to screen a video satirizing Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial to mobilize its fanbase against the company, throwing in a #FreeFortnite hashtag to boot.

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ust as it did with Apple, Epic Games has now filed a lawsuit against Google over alleged antitrust violations just hours after Fortnite was dropped from the Play Store. The suit alleges that Google’s stipulations about in-app purchases constitute a monopoly in clear violation of both the Sherman Act and California’s Cartwright Act.

Epic’s complaint is nearly identical to the lawsuit against Apple that it filed earlier today following Fortnite’s removal from the company’s app store. Only the lawsuit’s introductions differ significantly, with the one against Apple referencing its aforementioned 1984 ad and the one against Google recalling the infamous “Don’t Be Evil” mantra the company was founded upon.

“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,” the suit argues.

Source: Fortnite Booted from Google’s App Store Too [Update: Now Epic’s Suing Google Along With Apple]