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How did Fortnite get back on iOS?

EU players have some new regulations to thank

The Fortnite logo on a phone in front of the Apple logo Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

People at Epic Games must be celebrating. Thanks to a slate of new legislation in the EU, Fortnite, which has been absent from mobile app stores since 2020, is finally making its way back natively to iOS. It’s not going to be stand-alone on the App Store, but it’ll be available through an Epic Games Store app that’ll launch soon.

“shoutout DMA - an important new law in the EU making this possible,” a post on X (formerly Twitter) from the official Fortnite account read. “@Apple, the world is watching.”

If you’re in the U.S. — or just not up on international legislative policies in general, which is fair — you might not have heard of the DMA, aka the Digital Markets Act. In the EU, though, it has the potential to finally begin the process of breaking up the stranglehold certain companies have on the market. The DMA established a governing body that aims to put new guidelines into place that would regulate how much control giant companies — known as “gatekeepers” — have on their respective markets. Some of the conglomerates singled out by the EU include Microsoft, TikTok owner ByteDance, Google’s parent company Alphabet, and — most importantly for our purposes — Apple. All of these companies offer a “core platform service,” such as a social media platform, web browser, or an “online intermediation service” like an app store, and so are subject to different guidelines, albeit only in the EU.

The DMA outlines a lot of things these gatekeepers will have to do to comply, but relevant to getting Fortnite back on iOS are the rules that Apple and Google will have to allow third-party app stores on their devices, and they aren’t allowed to force users to use default apps. This, along with findings from an extensive EU antitrust investigation, is also why cloud streaming services like Xbox Game Pass will finally be allowed to offer proper stand-alone apps on iOS instead of forcing users to use these services via web browsers (the other reason cloud streaming services weren’t on the App Store was because Apple’s policies meant each game on the service would have to be reviewed as a stand-alone app, which is clearly unfeasible). Since Epic also made a deal with Xbox to offer Fortnite on Xbox Game Pass for free, users now have multiple ways to play on mobile devices.

Apple had previously attempted to appeal this decision, but on Thursday, announced it would be complying with DMA regulations in the EU and would be offering, among other things, more options for app and game developers to use alternate payment platforms that would bypass the App Store’s 30% revenue cut. It also had to be transparent to users that these options were available.

However, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney isn’t done yet. Apple noted in its statement that it was still against this change since it could open users up to “fraud and scams,” so it’s implementing new safeguards for developers. This reluctance, along with a change that forces developers of apps on alternate platforms to pay €0.50 “for each first annual install per year over a 1 million threshold,” led Sweeney to call the statement “hot garbage.”

“Apple’s plan to thwart Europe’s new Digital Markets Act law is a devious new instance of Malicious Compliance,” he wrote on X. “Epic has always supported the notion of Apple notarization and malware scanning for apps, but we strongly reject Apple’s twisting this process to undermine competition and continue imposing Apple taxes on transactions they’re not involved in.”

So this isn’t a complete win for Epic Games. It’s also unlikely that similar regulations will benefit North America and other regions anytime soon, if at all. Sure, a jury recently ruled that Google created an illegal monopoly with the Play Store due to some secret revenue-sharing deals that sought to threaten rival app stores, which is a win for the antitrust crowd. However, after the highly publicized Epic Games v. Apple antitrust trial, a judge ruled that Apple hadn’t created a monopoly. The decision has become the subject of multiple appeals — even almost making it to the Supreme Court — but Apple still came out on top. Apple was only ordered to let users know that there were alternate payment options off the App Store, but that’s admittedly pretty similar to DMA regulations — so who knows? Maybe the tides are shifting.

At the very least, EU-based Fortnite fans can finally play the game on iOS again soon — or at least without having to deal with sideloading, which is always a good thing.

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