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Epic Games sues Apple, Google after Fortnite pulled from App Store

Legal papers filed by Epic allege ‘anti-competitive practices’

Fortnite Image: Epic Games
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Fortnite developer Epic Games is suing Apple after its game was removed Thursday from the App Store. On Thursday morning, Epic implemented a new way to purchase V-Bucks, Fortnite’s in-game currency, allowing users to bypass Apple’s payment system for a discount. Players that choose to purchase directly through Epic pay less for V-Bucks, and Epic keeps the 30% cut that Apple would otherwise take.

Apple said the new payment system was “not reviewed or approved by Apple,” and that it would return Fortnite to the App Store once the payment option is removed. Now, Epic is looking to the court system for help in addressing what it calls Apple’s monopolization of the industry. It’s not asking for monetary damages; Instead, Epic wants the court to force Apple away from its “anti-competitive restrictions.”

Throughout the complaint, Epic’s lawyers reference Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, which was directed by Ridley Scott as a reference to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four — and IBM’s monopoly over the computer market.

“Fast forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” Epic’s suit reads. “Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceed that of any technology monopolist in history.”

Epic’s lawyers cited Apple’s domination over app distribution and payment, which they called “unlawful.” They called the 30% “tax” on sales “oppressive.” According to the complaint, Apple has refused “to let go of its stranglehold on the iOS ecosystem,” which it said hurts Epic, its competitors, and consumers.

The lawsuit suggests Apple has violated the Sherman Act, which is an antitrust law that prohibits monopolization. Epic is also calling on the California Cartwright Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law.

The outcome of such a lawsuit will certainly impact Apple’s practices, but it could also bring change to the tech industry at-large. The App Store is also subject to an antitrust investigation in the European Union. U.S. lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren have also criticized Apple and its competitors for attempting to “lock out” competition.

Update: On Thursday night, Google pulled Fortnite from the Google Play Store. Epic Games subsequently filed a similar lawsuit against Google for its antitrust violations. As in its lawsuit against Apple, Epic says it isn’t seeking monetary damages. Epic says it wants Google to change its practices to allow for a truly open market for Android phones, the same as Epic says in its Apple lawsuit. We’ve updated the headline to reflect this.