#FreeFortnite: So What The Heck Is Going On With Epic?

If you’re wondering what all the fuss with Fortnite and Epic Games has been about, we’ve got you covered.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 08/14/2020 07:04 2 Comments     ShareThis

What. A. Mess.

Fortnite is one of the biggest games in the world. The battle royale is a giant moneymaker for developer Epic Games thanks to its millions of users, a mass merchandise empire, and crossovers with hot cinematic properties like Star Wars. Fortnite is a wholly unique and fascinating part of the gaming landscape. The title is free-to-play, with microtransactions comprising the entirety of the revenue that Fortnite generates.

Here’s where things get technical, but we’ll try to keep it from being too boring. In a nutshell, Fortnite is on almost every digital gaming platform there is. Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PC, and mobile. The mobile side of things is where the trouble is occurring for Epic. Tech giant Apple has a highly regulated ecosystem for its devices, and this extends to its marketplace on iOS. Any software that can be sold for download to an iOS device has to go through the App Store with no exceptions.

This means that third-party developers like Epic can only sell their games via Apple’s digital storefront, with Apple taking a 30 percent cut of any money made. It’s this 30 percent that has Epic in a huff, with Epic arguing that it’s part of a predatory and monopolistic paradigm. In an effort to fight back against Apple’s mandated cut, Epic decided to circumvent the company’s regulations and enabled direct transactions between itself and players, slicing Apple out of the middle. Needless to say, Apple was not pleased with Epic violating its contract and summarily jettisoned Fortnite from the App Store.

Epic has implemented this same payment model for microtransactions in the Android version of Fortnite, similarly violating its terms of service agreement with Google, which in turn also vacated the game from its Google Play storefront. In retaliation, Epic has opted to bring litigation against both Apple and Google over the respective percentage of revenue that the two companies ask of its publishing partners. Ostensibly, Epic believes that the market control in the mobile sphere commanded by Apple and Google is not dissimilar to the presence Microsoft has with Windows in the world of PCs. Microsoft faced legal action that resulted in a more open marketplace for developers on its platform and now, Epic seeks to create that same change for mobile.

Based on the legal paperwork filed by Epic, what it boils down to is the company doesn’t approve of what it sees as Apple and Google preventing fair competition in their respective mobile marketplaces. What does that mean? Epic thinks it’s wrong that Apple is in control of the only portal from which to sell and download apps on its devices. Google, in fairness, has a more open situation with other marketplaces allowed to exist on Android, but Epic alleges that Google attempts to divert consumers away from these alternative options and make them dependent upon the Google Play Store.

Truth is in the eye of the beholder, but this is a very bold move by Epic no matter what angle the situation is looked at. For starters, it seems that Epic was anticipating today’s removal of Fortnite from the App Store, as the company promptly followed Apple’s move with the broadcast of a commercial dubbed Nineteen-Eighty Fortnite. The spot is both a riff on the Orwell novel 1984 and the dystopian, authoritarian government it depicts, as well as a commercial run by Apple itself from (you guessed it) 1984. The original commercial announced the coming of Macintosh and how it would help to ensure the world isn’t subjugated to the watchful eye of “big brother” as in Orwell’s bleak vision of the future. So, in essence, Epic appears to be accusing Apple of becoming the very fascist, controlling monolith it once claimed to be in opposition of.

Very dramatic! Let’s take a look at some of what Epic has been saying abut the situation on its website:

Apple is keeping prices high so they can collect 30% of your payments, and is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to you!

Epic believes that you have a right to save money thanks to using more efficient, new purchase options. Apple’s rules add a 30% tax on all of your purchases, and they punish game developers like us who offer direct payment options.

What Epic is calling a “30 percent tax” is technically the cut that Apple is owed as part of the contractual agreement between itself and developers. It’s unclear how this is a tax on players as the amount is merely a part of Apple’s take of the revenue. Regardless, it would appear that Epic is standing firm with its claims, going so far as to create the “FreeFortnite” hashtag on social media. As of now, the only impact that this decision by Epic is having on console Fortnite players, including those on Nintendo Switch, is a permanent 20 percent reduction in the cost of the in-game V-Bucks currency. Those who play on Nintendo’s platform should still be able to enjoy and update the game as normal, so if anyone has been worried they can rest easy for now.

What do you think of this whole debacle? Tell us in the comments and on social media!

2 Responses to “#FreeFortnite: So What The Heck Is Going On With Epic?”

  • 1447 points
    penduin says...

    It’s always been a morally wretched position to prevent anyone who buys a computer (be it a pocket-sized one or otherwise) from having control over what gets run on that computer. That means Apple is in the wrong, and Google, and Microsoft, and Sony, and Nintendo, and on and on.

    It’s also vile to wrap real-money gambling in children’s-toy dressings and exploit one’s own fan base, so let’s not pretend Epic are the heroes here either.

    Until we (collectively) take a hard look at these macro systems we’ve allowed to thrive and influence so many lives, and perhaps decide that there are other values besides profits which do matter, the best any individual or even company can do is figure out where we draw our own lines. Apple is indeed the monster they warned of decades ago, so I don’t buy Apple stuff. Nintendo is guilty of some of the same things, but I can’t help myself when it comes to games.

    Sickeningly, none of the actual wrong-doing happening here, the remote locking-down of people’s own devices or the exploitation of children, are even in dispute here. What is? The details of contracts; who’s entitled to which pieces of the profits. Sigh.

    • 1273 points
      Robert Marrujo says...

      Strongly agree with a lot of this. My only pushback is that I think if someone, even if it’s a company/entity like Apple, develops a platform, a network, etc., that they should be able to have control over it. They put in the work, they should be able to control it as they see fit. BUT, and now I’m pushing back on myself, lol, when said entity/company is running HALF THE FREAKING MARKET, in this case phones, it stops being as simple as I’m putting it. It is problematic that Apple is in charge of half the world’s phones and yet has 100% control of what content is on said phones. But to your point, that’s saying NOTHING about how the phones are made in the first place and extreme costs from a humanitarian perspective that comes from its greed, along with like 99% of consumer electronics manufacturers. It’s one hell of a mess, that’s for sure.

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