The legal battle between Epic Games and Apple is getting even more heated now that as The Verge reports, the former has announced that the new season of its game Fortnite won't go live on Mac or iOS. This will undoubtedly upset Apple users who play Fortnite, the cult free-for-all battle royale game that's become a global cultural phenomenon with in-game concerts, record-breaking revenue, and superstar players with cult followings of their own. But that was the inevitable outcome from the ongoing dispute between Epic and Apple that started when the developer tried to sidestep the App Store's obligatory payment mechanism earlier this month.
Apple users who love the game likely won't see any updates and content expansions until either Apple capitulates to Epic's demands or (more likely) Epic meets Apple's. In its FAQ section on the subject, the game and software developer doesn't mince its words, saying Apple's move is monopolistic and an exercise in "suppressing free market competition and inflating prices" and that it won't back down.
"Apple is blocking Fortnite updates and new installs on the App Store, and has said they will terminate our ability to develop Fortnite for Apple devices," the company's latest FAQ continues. "As a result, Fortnite’s newly released Chapter 2 - Season 4 update (v14.00), will not release on iOS and macOS on August 27."
How we got here — It all began earlier in August when Epic Games announced that it would allow consumers to make direct purchases within its app. Surprising no one, Apple took Fortnite off the App Store and later on even said that Epic Games sought unique concessions for its own app, citing direct email content from Epic CEO Tim Sweeney. But if readers go a little further into the email, they will notice that Sweeney was calling for a deduction that would be "equally available to all iOS developers."
Normally, Apple charges a 30 percent commission on in-app purchases or subscriptions (or 15 percent on recurring subscriptions after the first year). It even released a somewhat contrived study to justify the rate and argue that it's consistent with similar fees in the market.
But app developers have long criticized Apple's fee — the "Apple Tax" as many call it — and say that it isn't the rate that bothers them, it's the lack of alternatives, the preferential treatment Apple gives its own apps, and — thanks to recent revelations — the fact that not all apps are treated equally, despite Apple's assurances to the contrary.
Apple's study was released a week before its chief executive, Tim Cook, appeared before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, which made the timing convenient, and made the whole thing look like a public relations exercise.
What happens now? — With the termination of the Fortnite developer account on Apple, Epic could release an unofficial Fortnite edition for Mac users but that would be a Herculean task with potential legal repercussions. It would also likely be tricky for end-users to install, which would limit uptake. For now, what's clear is that in the middle of this legal dispute, the biggest losers aren't Epic Games or Apple. The biggest losers are the consumers who didn't ask for any of this drama but simply want to smash a few llama piñatas.