On top of some of the most influential sci-fi films in history, Sir Ridley Scott is well known for directing Apple's iconic "1984" advertisement, which shows a heroine coming to save humanity from an all-powerful "Big Brother" figure. Epic Games saw the irony in that after Apple (and Google) pulled its games, including Fortnite, from the App Store over a financial dispute. In response, the developer made a parody version called "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite" intended to rally gamers to its cause.
Not exactly noble — Apparently Scott appreciated the production value, but decided using the fight against tyranny to sell a video game was underwhelming. "On the one hand I can be fully complimented by the fact they copied [my commercial] shot for shot," Scott said in an interview with IGN. "But pity the message is so ordinary when they could have been talking about democracy or more powerful things."
Scott has a good point. There are certain fascist leaders around the world right now using their power to try and silence people, such as by hobbling mail delivery to influence voter turnout. And how many of Fortnite's young players actually understand the reference to such an old ad, or are familar with concepts like corporate monopolies and antitrust? Still, it was a clever use of Apple's own marketing against it.
Apple's platform power — Lawmakers have been investigating the powers of large platform companies, and Apple has been under intense scrutiny for its treatment of developers in the App Store. It imposes strict rules and requires developers share their earnings in order to remain in the store, the only place where users can download apps to their iOS devices. Microsoft, Facebook, and others have also come out against Apple in recent weeks, saying its strangehold hurts innovation and helps to maintain its dominant position in the app ecosystem. In some cases, Apple sets the rules for categories it directly competes in, such as music streaming. Sounds a bit Big Brother-y.
Current antitrust policy in the U.S. prohibits behavior that thwarts innovation or makes it harder for new businesses to enter a market.
Epic kickstarted its battle with Apple when it released a new version of Fortnite that bypassed Apple's in-app payment system and allowed users to buy in-game items directly through the company's website. That's a clear violation of Apple's rules, but it appears Epic made the move intentionally hoping to start this fight. Emails released in its ongoing legal battle show Epic asked Apple to reduce its 30 percent commission on in-app purchases before it's willing to return Fortnite to the store, something the company has been unwilling to do. Apple is increasingly relying on revenue from services for its future revenue growth.
No Fortnite for now — Apple has not given up one inch in the fight, and recently moved to shut down Epic's developer account that allows it to develop new versions of its Unreal gaming engine, which other developers use to make their own games. A judge ruled that Apple cannot block it from working on the engine, but can continue to keep Epic's games out of the App Store until the suit is resolved.
Fortnite remains unavailable on iOS for now, and new updates cannot be released.