What’s Going On with Apple’s Fortnite Ban?

How will this clash of tech titans affect you?

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Tshaka Armstrong
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September 16, 2020
4 min read

In Clash of the Titans, do the humans ever win? I mean, sure, the Kraken is killed, Medusa’s slain, but Perseus’ life pretty much sucks. All the battles eventually ruined him physically, which is to say, what does he really get out of all that glory in the end? Keep that in mind as we take a look at this massive showdown between Fortnite creator Epic Games, Apple, and Google.

What does this mean for you? How do I think this will all shake out? A surprise titan just entered the melee, with Facebook now speaking out against Apple and pandemic-shaming them. Shame. Shame. Shame.

What are Apple and Epic Games fighting about?

Every app developer who pushes its content through Apple and Google's app stores pays a fee to do so. So, when they post their apps to those stores and you pay for something, that payment goes through the respective store's systems.

And that brings us to the basic issue at the heart of this battle:

Recently Fortnite breached policy with Apple and placed a payment option in their app to pay directly to Epic Games for Fortnite, circumventing Apple's 30% cut of all sales.

Apple has an antitrust problem

Now here's the thing, Apple is in trouble in Europe and the United States as they try to fend off antitrust complaints due to how it operates its app store. Epic Games challenged both Apple and Google by doing this, and on Thursday, Apple removed the mobile version of Fortnite from the app store with Google following suit shortly thereafter.

Epic Games picked this fight strategically

Epic was ready for Apple to pull Fortnite though—oh, they were ready! Clearly, this was a very deeply strategic move on their part. First, they hit Twitter with a hashtag campaign, #FreeFortnite, and released a short video. It’s a spin on a famous commercial Apple originally released when the titan clashed with then computer powerhouse IBM back in 1984.

With that hashtag and video release, Epic Games also filed a lawsuit against Apple and Google, stating in the suit against Apple that:

Apple imposes unreasonable and unlawful restraints to completely monopolize both markets and prevent software developers from reaching the over one billion users of its mobile devices (e.g., iPhone and iPad) unless they go through a single store controlled by Apple, the App Store, where Apple exacts an oppressive 30% tax on the sale of every app.

To make themselves look like the good guys, Epic Games sent an email out to their users which offered discounts on Fortnite and stuff. However, the amount of the discount was basically cost minus roughly close to that 30% Apple takes off the top.

How will the clash between Epic Games, Apple, and Google affect you?

So who do you have in this fight? Who are you siding with? In the end, these are both companies making billions, and this fight won't even hurt Android users much because you can still easily sideload Fortnite as you can actually download it directly from their website on mobile, not to mention that Fortnite is available on basically every platform known to man.

So, who am I siding with? Neither. In the end, this is all about making more money for Epic, regardless of how they're going to try to get you and me on their side about this being about the small developers and protecting them. Apple is focusing its business more on services and content these days, so having that 30% tax in place is key for them. Matter of fact, Apple’s services were second only to iPhone sales recently.

iPhones preloaded with Fortnite already hitting the secondary market
Price Tag

A quick search on eBay shows that people are already selling iPhones with Fortnite installed on them for outrageous sums of money. One enterprising seller is asking $10K for a mint condition iPhone 10 with Fortnite installed.

Sometimes the consumer wins

But this kind of struggle is not uncommon in the world of media. Just look at how networks fight with cable companies over retransmission fees. And musicians fight with publishing and streaming companies for royalties.

Sometimes we do win, though. When Apple opened iTunes, and we no longer had to pay for a full album but could buy only the tracks we wanted for 99 cents, we won. Kind of. (There is that whole licensing thing and the fact you don't actually own what you're paying for.)

We also won again with streaming, no longer do we have to pay for cable bundles, right? Only now everybody's pulling their content from other services to create their own service, making you have to pay for multiple services to get what you want, ultimately inflating your monthly payments to close to what you were paying for cable subs to begin with.

At the end of the day, the titans will clash, one group of gods will prevail for now, and we'll all be a bit worn from the struggle. Well, mostly iFans will be the ones a tad battle weary. Epic Games is looking good for the win though, because just a day later, they got a major assist from another titan: Facebook.

Facebook pandemic-shames Apple over App Store fees

Facebook announced that a new paid event feature it's rolling out—which is meant to help SMBs (or small to medium businesses) make money during this global pandemic—will only be able to pay small businesses a portion of their sales on iOS because of that 30% fee.

Fidji Simo, VP and Head of Facebook App, wrote in a blog post:

We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19. Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and SMBs will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue.

Ouch. This tells iOS users who will be using this new feature that they will be taking a cut in their sales because Apple refused to waive their fee for the internet giant.

Final thoughts

Look, Apple wants to be the cool kid, but if enough billion-dollar corporations stand against them and iOS becomes the place where cool things don't go, they may just have to take the L. For the average Jamal or Jane, we won't get much more out of this than a fun fight to scrape memes from and maybe some amusing TikTok videos.

But I'm just some crazy guy shouting on the internet.

Speaking of gaming, you might want to check out our recommendations for the best internet for gaming, best VPNs for gaming, and ideal internet speeds for gaming.

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Tshaka Armstrong
Written by
Tshaka Armstrong
Tshaka is a nerd and Griot. Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer, and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

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