Update: Epic Games filed legal papers attacking App Store policy.
The highly-popular battle royale game Fortnite has now been removed from the App Store, after the company added a direct payments feature that evaded Apple’s In-App Purchase system. Read Apple’s statement after the break.
App Store rules requires digital purchases to use In-App Purchase, sharing 30% commission with Apple. The direct payments feature was pretty clearly in violation of those rules. Many believe Epic went ahead with it as an intentional stunt to draw attention to Apple’s App Store policy, amidst growing anticompetitive pressures.
The stunt will certainly draw attention, given Fortnite is one of the most popular games in the world. Fortnite is consistently among the top grossing games on iOS.
The App Store Review guidelines are under investigation by the European competition commission and a US judiciary panel as to whether Apple is unfairly using its dominance to effect the App Store.
In a statement to The Verge, Apple said that Epic Games purposefully violated App Store guidelines by releasing a feature that was not approved by Apple.
Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem – including it’s tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.
App Store rules mean that almost all digital transactions taking place in apps are required to use In-App Purchase, which includes giving Apple a 30% revenue cut. Developers are not allowed to release apps outside of the App Store, essentially giving Apple monopolistic control over the iPhone and iPad app ecosystem.
For subscriptions, Apple takes 30% of the revenue from the first year of transactions, and then 15% after that. Certain categories of apps are allowed to not use in-app purchase but they cannot promote alternative ways to make an account. This is why Spotify and Netflix only let you log in to your account, not sign up as a new customer.
Just last week, Apple said it would not allow game streaming services on the App Store. This means iPhone and iPad users will not be able to access upcoming services like Microsoft xCloud and Google Stadia on their devices.
9to5Mac asked Apple for comment on the matter earlier today, and we’ll update if we hear back.
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