Epic Games to bring Fortnite back to iPhones under new EU competition rules – but criticises new Apple ‘junk fees’
Epic Games is to bring its popular Fortnite back to the iPhone after a four-year gap, as it makes use of new European Union rules that allow it to bypass Apple’s official App Store.
The EU’s Digital Markets Act requires large digital “gatekeepers” to adhere to stricter rules designed to allow more competition, such as allowing app stores from third parties.
“Remember Fortnite on iOS? How bout we bring that back,” Epic wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
It added, “Apple, the world is watching.”
Apple removed Fortnite from its App Store in 2020 amidst a legal battle with Epic over App Store fees and third-party payment systems.
The iPhone maker will be required to allow third-party app stores for EU users from March.
The company announced its plans for compliance last week, along with a beta-test version of iOS 17.4, which implements the new measures.
The new rules do not apply for users in the UK, the US or elsewhere, although the UK’s Digital Markets Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, applies similar rules to large tech companies.
Remember Fortnite on iOS?
How bout we bring that back.
Later this year Fortnite will return in Europe on iOS through the @EpicGames Store.
(shoutout DMA – an important new law in the EU making this possible). @Apple, the world is watching. pic.twitter.com/VdHWTe8i1c
— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) January 25, 2024
Epic chief executive Tim Sweeney said on X there was a lot of “hot garbage in Apple’s announcement,” including “junk fees on downloads”.
Apple’s new rules implement an annual “Core Technology Fee” of 50 euro cents for each first annual install of an app. This applies over a 1 million threshold for App Store users, but there is no threshold for apps using an alternative app store.
The fee potentially means new recurring charges of millions of euros per year when developers add new users or update existing installed apps, and are payable whether or not developers use the official App Store or Apple’s payment-processing systems.
Some developers and industry watchers have argued the new fees constitute a discouragement for using app stores outside of Apple’s own official store, which would make them illegal under the DMA.
‘Privacy and security risks’
Competition lawyer Damien Geradin noted that Apple is giving developers the option of staying with its current terms and conditions, and it is likely that most will do so.
“Because the new business terms are onerous and don’t move the needle, it is not clear how many developers will sign in to these terms,” he wrote in a research note.
The exception, he said, is for apps that want to use in-app purchases – such as Spotify, which said last week it would introduce iPhone in-app purchases for EU users under the DMA – or companies such as Epic who have no choice but to distribute outside Apple’s App Store.
“This is not surprising. In courts, investigations and elsewhere, Apple’s stance has been to defend its practices to the fullest extent against change,” Gerardin noted.
In its announcement last week Apple reiterated its stance that the DMA introduces “privacy and security risks” and that its new measures are intended to “reduce” those risks.