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Fortnite Finally Returns to Apple Soon — But Not For Everyone

Time for another round.

Originally Published: 
key art from Fortnite
Epic Games

Four years after it disappeared from iOS, Fortnite is returning to iPhones in Europe, thanks to a new law that changes how Apple and other tech companies are allowed to run their storefronts. Fortnite publisher Epic Games shared the update on social media, along with the announcement that it’s bringing the Epic Games Store to iOS.

The change comes due to a new law set to take effect in Europe, called the Digital Markets Act, aimed at preventing gatekeepers like Apple from pushing out competitors. The salient detail for Epic is that the DMA requires Apple and others to allow third-party storefronts and payment processing in their ecosystems. That means the Epic Games Store will soon be available on iOS in countries affected by the DMA, and Fortnite will come with it. Epic Games declined to further comment. Apple didn’t immediately respond.

Epic Games celebrated Fortnite’s return to iOS in Europe in a social media post.

There’s no word yet on a launch date, but Epic said the store will be available “this year” in its social media post. Third-party apps will start appearing on iOS after update 17.4 in March, the month the new law goes into effect.

While it’s a massive win for Epic — and any other developer that wants to avoid the App Store — it doesn’t mean the Fortnite creator is putting its feud with Apple to bed. The same day Epic announced that its storefront was coming to iOS, CEO Tim Sweeney made a post decrying what he calls “a devious new instance of malicious compliance,” in the typically bombastic tone that both companies have taken around the case.

“They are forcing developers to choose between App Store exclusivity and the store terms, which will be illegal under DMA,” Sweeney says, “Or accept a new also-illegal anticompetitive scheme rife with new junk fees on downloads and new Apple taxes on payments they don't process.”

Sweeney is likely referring to Apple’s new “Core Technology Fee,” which levies a roughly 50-cent charge on apps for every install after the first million. Apple will also reduce its much-criticized 30 percent commission to between 10 and 17 percent, and add a new three percent fee to apps using its App Store’s payment processing. Apple also maintains a large degree of control over the App Store, through “a baseline review that applies to all apps, regardless of their distribution channel, focused on platform integrity and protecting users” according to the company’s announcement of its new policies.

Epic CEO Time Sweeney isn’t entirely satisfied with Apple’s response to the DMA.

It’s been more than three years since Fortnite was last available on iOS devices. Apple removed the game from the App Store in August 2020, meaning iPhone users could no longer download the game or even update it if they already had it installed. That move came after Epic Games implemented its own payment system in Fortnite, allowing it to sell in-game items without giving Apple its 30-percent cut.

Google also removed Fortnite from the Play Store in response, but the game remained available on Android through a download on Epic’s website.

In response, Epic Games immediately filed a lawsuit in a California district court against Apple, alleging that the platform holder was blocking fair competition on iOS.

“Epic brings this suit to end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market(each as defined below),” it wrote in the court filing.

It’s been more than three years since Epic Games kicked off its fight against Apple with a parody of the company’s “1984” commercial.

According to Epic, Apple’s control of the iOS storefront constitutes an illegal monopoly, since developers have no option for distributing their app that avoids the App Store and its associated fees.

The legal battle dragged on for more than three years, ending less than a week before Apple’s statement about the DMA. On January 16, the Supreme Court rejected petitions to hear the antitrust suit from both Apple and Epic. In an earlier ruling, Apple’s actions were found to be anticompetitive, and the company will ultimately be required to allow links that bypass its payment system in some form. However, it won’t be required to let Fortnite back on the App Store or allow third-party storefronts in the U.S.

So while players in the European Union will soon be able to play Fortnite on iOS again, it’s still off limits to U.S. players. Epic Games clearly doesn’t seem ready to give up its fight against Apple in any market, so for now, the years-long saga over one of the world’s most popular games will likely continue.

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