“It will cause large issues. The only way to currently access the game [if you don’t have it on your device] is third party websites, which can open up your device to malware,” he said.
“Fortnite on mobile is incredibly popular, especially with the addition of a mobile and console specific prize pool in competitive Fortnite.”
Epic claims that by forcing apps to use Apple’s payment system, for which the iPhone-maker takes a 30 per cent cut of all payments, it has an effective monopoly. It is now suing Apple for removing Fortnite from the App Store, and calling for it to open its devices to alternative stores and payments.
“All mobile developers and consumers have the right to choose alternate payment providers that charge less, as is the norm on all other general-purpose computing platforms, including web, Windows, and Mac,” Epic said in a statement.
“We expect to see a general change in smartphone practices industry-wide for all developers that brings greater value and freedom of choice to consumers.”
It is also suing Google, which it claims has erected barriers that put apps from competing stores at a severe disadvantage.
Apple and Google each said, in respective statements, that their stores were designed to keep users safe, and that Fortnite would be reinstated if the option to pay Epic directly was removed.
A spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which has previously taken both Apple and Google to task over practices it alleged to be anti-competitive, said the commission was aware of the proceedings and would be following developments.
Fortnite made $US1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) in 2019, and $US2.4 billion in 2018, meaning a 30 per cent cut is big money even if much of the business is conducted on PC and console versions of the game.
Following its massive success with the game, Epic has previously taken stands against what it considered to be closed systems by opening its own store for PC games which takes a lower cut of sales than the most engrained store, Valve’s Steam. It has also been known to make risky PR moves in promoting its game, such as having the entire game world appear to fall into a black hole and become unplayable to promote a new season of Fortnite in 2019.
The University of Sydney’s Marcus Carter, who has led studies on the appeal of Fortnite and on kids’ attitudes toward their hobby being often negatively portrayed in the media, said Epic’s move was a calculated gamble designed to rally players to their cause.
“This is perhaps the biggest marketing campaign for a lawsuit I’ve ever seen,” Dr Carter said, referring to the videos attacking Apple that began appearing inside Fortnite soon after the ban.
“What Epic’s doing right now is trying to get their player base angry about how Apple is treating them. They’re trying to put their experience as a multibillion-dollar company in the same category as the experience of someone developing a game on their own and trying to make a few dollars.”
The in-game videos satirise Apple’s own 1984 Mac advertisements by casting the iPhone-maker as a tyrannical overlord, which Dr Carter said didn’t exactly do the issue justice.
“It’s a missed opportunity to educate Fortnite‘s young player base about the important principles of open technology ecosystems and healthy competition in keeping the prices down for digital consumers,” he said.
“Apple knows that it has a really significant advantage in that it has over a billion devices out there in the world.”
Tim is the editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald technology sections.