It’s been more than two years since the popular game Fortnite was removed from the App Store after Epic Games updated it with a payment system that bypassed Apple’s in-app purchases. However, as Apple is now rumored to allow alternative app stores on the iPhone and iPad, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has teased that Fortnite will return to iOS soon.
The news didn’t come via an official announcement from Epic Games. Instead, Sweeney tweeted “Next year on iOS!” before New Year’s Eve. Of course, we can’t be sure how exactly Epic Games will try to bring Fortnite back to iOS. However, since the game has been banned by Apple, Sweeney was probably referring to the alternative app stores that might be allowed on iOS in the near future.
What happened to Fortnite?
App Store guidelines strictly require that any transactions made within apps must use Apple’s in-app purchases system, which gives the company a 30% commission on each sale. Epic Games updated Fortnite to sell in-game items using its own payment system, which prompted Apple to remove the game from the iOS App Store.
Soon after Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against Apple for anti-competitive practices with the App Store on iOS. As a consequence, Apple banned not only Fortnite, but Epic Games’ entire developer account, which also made it impossible for the game company to distribute Fortnite on the Mac since the game must be signed with a valid account.
In September 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple could no longer prohibit developers from offering third-party payment options in their apps. At the same time, Judge Rogers believes that Epic Games knew exactly what it was doing when it broke App Store rules. For this reason, Apple wasn’t forced to allow Fortnite back into the App Store.
Both Apple and Epic Games are appealing the ruling, but no final decision has been made so far.
Will the game ever come back to iOS?
As mentioned before, Sweeney’s announcement on Twitter seems more speculative than something he’s actually sure will happen. In December, Bloomberg reported that Apple has been working internally to allow third-party app stores on iOS for the first time. This would let iPhone and iPad users to download and install software not approved by Apple.
The report claims that this change may take effect with iOS 17, which is expected to be announced later this year. The big change in how iOS and the App Store works is due to the fact that the company has been under pressure from governments around the world, especially the European Union, to open up the iOS ecosystem.
But it’s important to keep in mind that, at this point, we don’t know how exactly Apple plans to open iOS to alternative app stores. The company could do this in a way that makes the process of installing these apps too complicated for regular users, discouraging developers from distributing their apps outside of the App Store.
So while Sweeney has said that Fortnite will return to iOS in 2023, we can’t be too sure about that yet.
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