A major battle may be brewing in the world of gaming. Fortnite, one of if not the largest game in the world, was yanked off the Apple App Store today. The official reason given was developer Epic Games continuing to use their own system for collecting payments (Read about that here). While this might seem like a mundane thing on the surface, it’s setting up for a massive showdown that will involve most major developers.
Why do we care if Fortnite is on the App Store?
In truth, many people don’t. Fortnite remains one of the biggest games in the world, mostly by virtue of its success on other platforms. But you’re kidding yourself if you think mobile isn’t a massive chunk of their business. In an era where Epic Games is bringing in more money than just about anyone, it’s not easy to strike a blow at their wallet. This is one of the few ways in which that could happen.
Speaking to The Verge today, Apple commented: Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. 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 regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.
Now, let’s be very clear. This was not a knee-jerk reaction. Apple did not wake up and go “Woah! Epic violated our policies, let’s yank Fortnite off the App Store.” There have been conversations. And now, this is a shot across the bow of Epic.
What are the stakes?
We’ve moved out of the game developer era, and into the platform developer era. It’s not about who’s making the games anymore. Now it’s about who controls the platform in which you purchase the games? Valve is one of the all-time great game developers. And yet, if you asked 100 gamers what they think of when they think of Valve, 99 of them would say Steam. For those not in the know, Steam is the platform in which most PC gamers download and play their games.
Epic, for their part, have their own game platform called the Epic Store, which competes with Steam. And now, we’re getting a fascinating look into a battle between game and platform. Will Apple back down when they see how much money and traffic they lose not having Fortnite on their store? Or will Epic buckle under the pressure of not being able to move their app on iOS devices? It’s particularly interesting because both companies are so large that they can play a little chicken.
At the end of the day, if you want to play Fortnite, you have plenty of options still. Over the long term, this isn’t likely to affect players themselves. But if you’re keeping an eye on the way the industry is moving, this is an incredibly important battle. It’ll set a precedent for who has the power in these negotiations moving forward. Is it the platform, or the game developer? You may end up having a hand in the decision.
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