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Fortnite's coming back to the iPhone later this year: Here's how we got there

Apple changes stance on Epic ban with pressure from the European Commission.
By

Published onMarch 10, 2024

Fortnite Mobile
Fortnite Mobile
TL;DR
  • Apple blocked Epic’s attempt at bringing their games back to the iPhone in Europe.
  • The European Commission began investigating whether Apple went against EU regulations.
  • Apple, facing scrutiny, decided to reinstate Epic’s developer account in Europe.

European users will soon be able to play Epic’s Fortnite on their iPhone, despite a tumultuous back-and-forth between Epic and Apple in the wake of their legal spat.

Following Epic and Apple’s very public legal dispute in 2020, the European Commission (EC) introduced new regulations aimed at combating unfair practices toward business users and customers in Europe. This opened the door for Epic to return to iOS devices. But Apple quickly squashed hopes of Epic’s comeback, by banning Epic’s developer account. On Friday, however, Epic announced that Apple had decided to reinstate their developer account in Europe and the game developer is working on bringing Fortnite back to iOS via the Epic Games Store.

Here’s how we got here.

Epic’s battle with Apple

One of Epic’s biggest complaints is that Apple, as the operator of the only app store allowed for iOS devices, took a hefty 30% cut for all app purchases and app service transactions while blocking alternative ways for in-app payments. This meant added costs for developers; a cost that would eventually trickle down to iPhone users. Apple, in its defense, pointed to the necessity of such strict policies for the safety and security of its users.

Apple’s legal battle with Epic caught the eye of the European Union’s watchdog group the European Commission (EC). In response, the commission introduced in 2022 the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a set of policies created to promote a “fairer business environment” and provide opportunities for competition. As a part of the new DMA policies, those who qualified as “gatekeepers,” like Apple and Google, would have to allow for third-party app stores and alternative payment methods on their operating systems.

In light of the DMA, Epic was planning to relaunch on iOS by joining Apple’s Developer Program through its Epic Games Sweden developer account. However, it seems Apple wasn’t convinced that Epic would be following the Developer Program License Agreement guidelines, ultimately banning Epic’s Swedish developer account following a few email discussions.

Why is the European Commission getting involved?

Unfortunately for Apple, thwarting Epic’s attempts back into iOS seems to have invited new scrutiny from the EC. As such the EC began investigating whether Apple, as a “gatekeeper,” violated DMA regulations when banning Epic’s developer account. Epic definitely thought so, as stated in their public statement.

Reuters reported on March 8 that the EC will also be looking into whether Apple’s action toward Epic complies with the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Platform to Business Regulation (P2B). The DSA speaks to a proportionate response related to suspending or terminating an account while the P2B requires a platform to notify a business when terms and conditions are changed before an account is closed.

Apple reinstates Epic’s developer account

The possibility of facing the consequences for DMA non-compliance, it seems, was enough for Apple to reinstate Epic’s developer account. Negative public sentiment and dropping share price likely also played a part in Apple’s decision, though. If the EC found Apple to be in violation, Apple could have faced heavy fines of up to tens of millions of Euros.

Now that Apple’s re-opened its doors, we’ll just have to wait to see when Epic will make good on its promise of bringing Fortnite and the Epic Game Store to iPhones in Europe. Epic is planning to bring Fortnite back sometime in 2024, according to their recent X post. The game developer credits the DMA for this change in fortune.

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