[Update 4: Epic Sues Google] Fortnite bypasses Google Play, Apple App Store fees with direct payments
Epic Games on Thursday announced the Fortnite Mega Drop, a permanent discount on V-bucks and other purchases of up to 20% off. The developer said these changes are permanent and available on every platform where you can download Fortnite.
The bigger news, however, is the fact that Epic Games has introduced direct payments on mobile. The change means that Fortnite is circumventing the app store fees associated with Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store. If you don’t go with the direct payment option, the newly implemented discounts won’t apply. “Currently, when using Apple and Google payment options, Apple and Google collect a 30% fee, and the up to 20% price drop does not apply,” Epic Games said in a blog post. “If Apple and Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”
If you choose the direct payment option, you’ll be brought to a screen where you can enter your credit card or PayPal information. With the discount, 1,000 V-bucks cost $7.99 — otherwise, the price is $9.99 due to the fees associated with Google and Apple payment options. If you recently purchased V-bucks in the last 30 days, players will be granted a V-bucks bonus by August 17. Epic also said that all active players will get the Shooting Starstaff Pickaxe for free.
Epic Games said that direct payments are perfectly safe and that many commonly used apps, including Grubhub, Fandango, McDonald’s, and many others, accept direct payments. “We think all developers should be free to support direct payments in all apps,” Epic Games said. “In operating Fortnite in open platforms and operating the Epic Games Store, Epic has processed over $1,600,000,000 of direct payments successfully, and uses industry trusted encryption and security measures to protect customer transactions.”
Epic Games has had a fraught relationship with Google Play from the beginning. When Fortnite originally launched on Android, you could only download it from Epic’s website or Samsung’s Galaxy Store. Eventually, however, Fortnite was put on Google Play, but not without Epic first blasting Google, saying the search giant puts software downloaded outside of Google Play at an unfair disadvantage.
Today’s announcement feels almost like a dare to Apple and Google to pull Fortnite from their respective app stores. With both Apple and Google under scrutiny from antitrust regulators and politicians, such a move would bring even more attention to both companies’ app store policies. We will be keeping an eye on this news to see how Apple and Google respond to Epic Games.
Update 1: Removed from Apple App Store
Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.
Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem – including it’s tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.
As of now, Fortnite is still available on the Google Play Store.
Update 2: Epic Games Sues Apple
It seems that Epic Games had everything planned out for today. The company planned and played an in-game commercial titled “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” spoofing Apple’s iconic 1984 Super Bowl commercial. During the video, Epic Games showed the following message:
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming “1984.” #FreeFortnite
Here is a recording of the commercial that was shown in-game:
Since Fortnite is no longer available in the Apple App Store, Epic Games will not be able to deliver the version 14.00 update with the “Chapter 2 – Season 4” content to iOS users. Version 13.40 of the game will still be playable to those users who have already downloaded the game on their devices, though. As the game is still available on the Google Play Store (and can also be downloaded from the Samsung Galaxy Store or sideloaded from Epic’s website), Android users will be able to play the version 14.00 update one way or another.
A daring provocation and a cheeky commercial aren’t all that Epic Games had in mind for today, though. The company filed a Complaint for Injunctive Relief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Epic seeks to force Apple to relax its app store restrictions and allow developers to offer their own payment options. The complaint is scathing and accuses Apple of not living up to the image it set for itself in its iconic 1984 ad.
Update 3: Removed from Google Play Store
Google has now joined Apple in booting Fortnite from their app store. The game is no longer listed on the Google Play Store. In a statement to The Verge, Google says that the company “can no longer make [Fortnite] available on Play because it violates [their] policies.” The policy in question requires that “developers offering products within a game downloaded on Google Play or providing access to game content must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment.” The use of Google Play In-app Billing is where Google gets its 30% cut of revenue, much like Apple.
Here’s the full statement from Google:
The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores. For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users. While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.
Epic Games’s legal action targets Apple mainly because the company does not allow for alternative app distribution methods on its mobile OS. Google, on the other hand, allows users to install apps from non-Play Store sources. Fortnite, for example, is still available for Android users from Epic Games’s website. Epic Games has not yet responded to the removal of its game from the Google Play Store, but we will update this article if the company responds.
Update 4: Epic Games Sues Google
Epic Games has now enacted a scorched-earth policy against Google, too, by filing a lawsuit against the company. In a filing (via The Verge) with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Epic Games alleges that Google’s restrictions on what payment methods are allowed for apps on the Play Store violates U.S. antitrust regulations. Whereas Epic Games’s lawsuit against Apple began with a reference to the company’s iconic 1984 commercial, the company’s lawsuit against Google opens up with a reference to Google’s old “Don’t Be Evil” mantra.