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"Fortnite's" Epic Battle With Apple and Google Escalates

By Danny Vena - Updated Aug 14, 2020 at 4:00PM

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The game publisher is leveling strategic antitrust charges.

A tiff between Epic Games and Apple (AAPL -0.14%) and Alphabet's (GOOGL -0.61%) (GOOG -0.55%) Google spilled over into the courts Thursday. The publisher of the well-known battle royale game Fortnite had picked a fight with the tech giants earlier that day, adding a direct payment option and encouraging its mobile app users to bypass the regular payment process, violating app store rules.

The move allowed Epic Games to cut Apple and Google out of the 30% royalty they collect on such in-game purchases, escalating the punch-up.

Animated characters holding guns and swords, preparing for battle, in a screenshot from Epic Games Fortnite.

A screen shot from Fortnite. Image source: Epic Games.

Battle royale

Apple responded by removing Fortnite from the App Store, saying that the new payment feature violated the terms of their agreement. "Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result, their Fortnite app has been removed from the store," an Apple spokesperson said. 

Hours later, Google took a similar stance, dropping Fortnite from the Google Play Store. The company defended the decision saying, "We can no longer make [Fortnite] available on [the Google Play Store] because it violates our policies." 

Epic Games responded by filing parallel lawsuits, alleging antitrust violations, saying the companies have a monopoly over apps available in their respective app stores, as well as control over the payment systems used. The complaints cite "contractual and technological barriers" that stifle Epic's ability to reach consumers.

The company also began a full-fledged social media campaign against the tech titans, using Apple's iconic 1984 commercial to cast itself as the rebellious upstart and Apple as the authoritarian regime from a dystopian future. It also cited Google's once-unofficial corporate motto, "Don't be evil," saying in its lawsuit that the company is "using its size to do evil upon competitors." 

Epic Games is no doubt using the current antitrust spotlight on big tech to buttress its case.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Alphabet (A shares) and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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