Fortnite: why Epic Games is suing Apple and Google for banning Fortnite from their app stores - and the 1984 video explained

Apple has now removed Epic Games’ developer account from the App Store

Fortnite has now been banned from both the Apple and Google app stores (Photo: Shutterstock)
Fortnite has now been banned from both the Apple and Google app stores (Photo: Shutterstock)

Epic Games, the developer behind popular battle royale game, Fortnite, is taking legal action against Google and Apple after being banned from the companies’ app stores.

As well as tweeting about the lawsuit, Epic Games hit out at Apple with a parody video called Nineteen-Eighty-Fortnite.

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This is everything you need to know about the legal battle and the parody video.

Why did Apple ban Fortnite from its app store?

Apple banned Fortnite from its App Store after Epic Games introduced a direct payment system, which allows Epic Games to bypass Apple's commission fee for transactions.

Fortnite’s latest update offered players 20% off V-bucks - the in-game currency - but only if they paid Epic Games directly rather than using Google or Apple’s payment’s systems.

In the App Store terms, it’s outlined that Apple charges developers, like Epic Games, 15 to 30 per cent for in-app purchases or downloads.

In a statement to The Verge, Apple said that Fortnite was removed for “violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users”.

The feature from Epic Games was “not reviewed or approved by Apple” according to Apple.

How did Epic Games respond?

On the official Fortnite Twitter account, a tweet posted on 13 August read “Epic Games has filed legal papers in response to Apple,” with a link to the official papers.

Epic Games has encouraged players to “join the fight” against Apple by using the hashtag #FreeFortnite on social media.

Epic also released a short film titled Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite, a play of George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

What’s the 1984 parody film about?

Epic Games’ film Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite is a parody of Apple’s 1984-themed TV advert about fighting a police state.

It shows a black and white scene of people watching a huge TV screen that’s broadcasting a character with a giant apple for a head, closely resembling the Apple logo.

The character is also wearing glasses similar to those of Tim Cook, the Apple Chief Executive, in his official photograph on the company’s website.

The Apple character is seen talking about its control of the system, saying: “Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the platform unifications directives.

“For years, they have given us their songs, their labour, their dreams. In exchange, we have taken our tribute, our profits, our control. The power is ours and ours alone. We shall prevail.”

While the apple-headed character talks, a colourful Fortnite character can be seen running through a corridor before she swings a giant unicorn shaped club against the TV, blowing it up.

As she walks away, text scrolls up onto the screen which reads: “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.”

The images in both the parody video from Epic Games and the original advert from Apple are an allusion to George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 which told the story of a dystopian future ruled by a televised “Big Brother”.

Is Epic Games suing Google too?

Initially, Fortnite had only been removed from the Apple App Store, but a tweet posted by Fortnite on 14 August states that “Fortnite is currently unavailable on Google Play”.

Epic Games is taking legal action against Google as well, now that Fortnite has been removed from the Google Play app store.

Compared to the high profile response Epic Games has issued in response to Apple, with the parody video and asking its users to rally against the app store, Epic Games has been quiet in response to Google.

Documents do show, however, the Epic Games has filed a complaint against Google in California court, the same as it did with Apple.

Google also takes a compulsory 30 per cent cut from sales in the Play Store, the same as Apple.

The documents describe a deal that Epic Games had made with mobile phone brand OnePlus to make its games available “seamlessly” on their devices.

However, as the documents reveal, “Google forced OnePlus to renege on the deal, citing Google’s ‘particular concern’ about Epic having the ability to install and update mobile games while ‘bypassing the Google Play Store’.”

It also explained how LG was also prevented by Google from adding Epic Games software to its devices.

In response to Epic Games, Google issued a statement, saying: “The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple store apps.

“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.”

How have fans reacted?

Fan response to the parody video and legal action from Epic Games has been mixed, with comments on Youtube and Twitter stating that breaking the rules has consequences.

One Twitter user wrote: “You broke the rules so obviously it was going to be taken down, you ain’t special or anything.”

“People are dying, the world is on fire, I could not possibly care less that your billion dollar game is not making as much money as it was yesterday,” one person tweeted.

A YouTube commenter wrote: “Epic: bans players for violating the rules… Apple: bans Epic for violating their agreement… Epic: angry.”

“There’s something rather gross about rallying your overwhelmingly young fanbase in service of what is ostensibly a revenue dispute between two billion-dollar tech companies. Very slimy, Epic,” comment another.

Can users still play Fortnite on mobile devices?

Fortnite still remains available to play on devices like PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac and GeForce Now.

Users accounts, progression and purchases remain available on these platforms.

However, new players will not be able download Fortnite onto their mobile devices from either the Google Play store or the Apple App store.

Existing players with the app already on their phone will continue to be able to play the game, but they won’t receive any updates, like new chapters or seasons.

Has Apple threatened to remove Epic Games from its developer programme?

Apple has threatened to remove Epic Games from its developer programme on 28 August, which would leave Epic unable to offer any other games or apps on the Apple platform.

Apple has given Epic two weeks to re-instate the in-app payments if the company wants to see Fortnite return to the app store.

Epic states that it will be “irreparably harmed” by being removed from Apple’s developer programme.

Apple has declined to comment on the latest move, but a spokesperson for the company pointed to a previous statement from the tech giant that was released last week, which said that Epic “took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines” and that it “would make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations”.

Epic has filed a motion seeking a temporary restraining order against Apple – the company said that it expects to win its case against Apple (and likely Google, by extension) “on the merits of its claims”, but requires a temporary injunction because it will be “irreparably harmed” before a judgement is made if Apple is permitted to go ahead with removing Epic from the developer programme.

Apple has since gone forward with removing Epic from their developer programme. Epic is yet to comment on the move.

Is Xbox supporting Epic?

Xbox boss Phil Spencer announced on his Twitter account that Microsoft has filed a statement in support of Epic, as the company continues to rail against Apple.

Spencer tweeted: “Today we filed a statement in support of Epic’s request to keep access to the Apple SDK for its Unreal Engine. Ensuring that Epic has access to the later Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & gamers.”

The tweet links out to the full statement which goes into more detail, and explains Microsoft’s reasoning for publicly supporting Epic.

"Epic Games’ Unreal Engine is critical technology for numerous game creators including Microsoft,” the statement explains.

It continues: “As a result, Epic’s Unreal Engine is one of the most popular third part game engines available to game creators, and in Microsoft’s view there are very few other options available for creators to license with as many features and as much functionality as Unreal Engine across multiple platforms, including iOS.”