Controversy with Apple puts company under fire

Company fighting with Epic Games after it removes popular Fortnite from App Store


Photo courtesy of NPR

Apple removed the Fortnite app from its store after the tech giant says Epic Games violated specific guidelines.

Justin Singh, Staff Writer

Apple has come under fire for its role in taking down Fortnite from the App Store. The cause? Epic Games making a “V-Bucks” discount that people can’t get on the App Store.

What made this discount different from others in the past was that people could not get it through Apple, but they could only access it directly from Epic Games. 

This in itself bypassed a rule set by Apple for digital goods and services, requiring that 30 percent of all purchase profits go to Tech Giants.

“Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the Apple store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designer to keep the store safe for our users,” according to a statement from Apple published in The Verge. “As a result, their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.”

A similar move was made by Epic Games to the Android version of the game, and it was taken down from the Play Store, but apparently Google is open to talks of bringing Fortnite back. 

Now where does this 30 percent rule by Apple come from? It was introduced in 2009 along with the introduction of in-app purchases. 

There are four types of in-app purchases: consumables – purchase of a set amount of an item, for instance V-Bucks, which is a game currency that gets used up if spent; non-consumables – purchase of an item that remains after being bought, like a Fortnite skin; auto-renewable subscriptions – purchase of a subscription that automatically renews once the offer ends, such as magazines or articles; and non-renewable subscriptions – purchase of a subscription that only lasts until the offer is over. An example is the Fortnite Season Pass. Thirty percent of revenue from these purchases goes to Apple if they are made from the App Store version. 

Most of the money Apple makes from this system is from the free apps, which have purchasable items within them. But Apple also takes this percentage from Netflix and Spotify subscriptions, as long as people sign up on an iOS device. This can be resolved by signing up separately on another device.

Is this paywall fair for upcoming developers?

“Developers go into this knowing the percentage Apple keeps,” Cal High history teacher Chris Doherty wrote in an email. “Apple has a right to collect their money as payment since they are the streaming platform.”

Epic Games did not seem to pay attention to this when they released on Aug. 13 their anti-Apple YouTube video,“Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite-#FreeFortnite”, or when they filed a lawsuit against Apple in retaliation.

The takedown of Fortnite has caused active iPhone players to drop 60 percent from before.

“This in my opinion would be somewhat of a bump because the Fortnite community mostly plays on PC, Nintendo Switch, and console,” freshman Abhay Rathi said. 

Epic Games has a considerably large gaming community on other platforms such as the ones Rathi listed.

“It is a minor bump, barely any people play mobile,” freshman Ethan Stockwell said. 

While Fortnite reached 100 million iOS downloads in five months of release, it also reached 78.3 million PC players in October 2018 by itself in one month. This puts in perspective  how much the mobile community contributes in numbers. This also brings into form just how much money is being lost for both Epic Games and Apple while they stay in this feud.

“I think that if Epic Games strongly wants mobile players to still play then they should go to court to get this issue fixed with Apple,” Rathi said.

Ultimately, it falls onto Epic Games if they believe fighting back will be beneficial for their company.

“Depends on if Epic Games thinks a court decision will increase their revenue,” Doherty wrote.

Which makes the point, how far will this lead to? What we have seen in the past is that the gaming community is full of thinkers and diligent players who would do a lot to save their favorite pastime. 

We can take that tighter regulations and specificity on issues like this should be laid out to where it can be clear and easy to understand where the line stands on these digital goods, so that in the future a whole player base doesn’t have to deal with an end to their gaming.