So, Fortnite is coming back to iOS, and we mean it this time; pinky-promise. The game’s official account on Twitter (we’re not calling it ‘X’) said that the game would be returning to iOS in Europe, via Epic’s new third-party storefront on the platform.
And in case you’re wondering why Apple, infamously protective of their ecosystem on iPhone, is now allowing third-party storefronts, it’s due to two key legal changes.
First is the ruling on the Apple v Epic legal case which refused to overturn an earlier ruling saying that Apple had to allow third-party storefronts and payment providers on their platform.
Second, is a new set of legislation passed in the EU called the Digital Markets Act, or DMA. This legislation means that anti-monopolistic practices by companies like Apple and Google are being cracked down on hard, including their policy of not allowing third-party storefronts of payment providers.
So what’s the problem? (Because there’s always a problem)
Well, the issue for Fortnite, Epic, and both games and developers like them is that while Apple is now ‘agreeing’ to allow third-party storefronts and payment providers, they’re doing so in a roundabout and somewhat antagonistic way.
Industry professional David Heinemeier Hanson broke down some of the quite bizarre requirements, like having a letter of credit from a financial institution – basically huge financial backing to the tune of a million Euros – before they could be ‘considered’ for developing a third-party storefront. Developers will also have to pay €0.50 for each first-time installation of their store as part of a ‘core technology fee’, and any third-party payment providers will get a big warning banner telling users that Apple won’t be held liable, their Apple payment things won’t work, and everything of that nature.
Suffice it to say it’s a pretty roundabout and bad faith way of ‘complying’ with the new laws, and is probably part of why Epic is being so antagonistic in their post on Twitter about the new storefront. It could be that a new, even more, brutal legal battle is right around the corner. But what does this mean for you, the player?
Nothing new under the sun
Well, the first thing is that our previous musings on whether this would lead to a new wave of third-party storefronts and cheaper alternative payment providers are being decidedly disproved. With these kinds of requirements, it seems that only developers like Epic – who have millions if not billions of dollars to draw on to meet these costs – will be likely to take the plunge and open their own storefront. As we also noted, the existing 27% fee on third-party payments means that potential discounts on in-app purchases are unlikely to materialise, although web stores that you access ‘voluntarily’ (i.e. not through an in-game link) are still exempt by technicality.
I think we’d all been hoping that this new wave of legislation and legal rulings would nix some of the more frustrating aspects of Apple’s walled-off app ‘ecosystem’, like the lack of sideloading APKs for games. Apple’s always had a kind of snobby reputation when it comes to hardware and applications, and it seems they’re not planning to relinquish control without a fight.
So what might happen?
Well, in all likelihood we’re going to get Fortnite back on iOS in the near future. That much has been pretty much on the cards ever since this legislation and the Epic v Apple rulings came to pass. But we’re also probably seeing the seeds of another legal battle on the horizon, and I think the last thing Fortnite players want is to see the game getting yanked again because of Tim Sweeney’s vendetta against the big A.
We can also say what’s not happening right now. Outside of the EU we won’t be seeing Fortnite return to iOS, Apple is still contesting the decision of their court case with Epic and it’s unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. With Tim Sweeney terming Apple’s adherence to the new EU laws as ‘malicious compliance’ (basically obeying the rules but in the most asinine way possible), we can count on this state of affairs not lasting long as industry professionals kick up a stink and legislators are sure to take notice.
So, that’s it. For now, we’re hopeful that Fortnite will make its final return to iOS with few issues. But even with major changes in places like the EU, Apple’s still no closer to loosening its iron grip. And it’s going to be something that no doubt triggers a whole new wave of challenges from industry professionals and legislators.
For players, hopefully, the return of Epic Games to the platform signals the arrival of more – hopefully cheaper and more stacked – storefronts to iOS. But whether they’ll stick with it or be scared off by these new fees remains to be seen.
What do you think? Is it all good news, or bad news? A mixture of both? Leave us a comment and let us know!