Here’s why, if you’re an app developer, Epic Games’ and Apple’s fight over Fortnite could save you a fortune. But in this case it’s likely you’ll need the backstory – we’ve included a quick timeline of the events so far at the bottom of this article should you need to get up to date.

To cut a long story short Fortnite developer Epic aren’t happy with the 30% cut Apple and Google take from in-app transactions and the fact that in both cases they’re forced to allow in-app purchases/avoid promoting alternative payment portals by the OS providers’ terms of service. In fact they’re so unhappy with it they’re simultaneously taking on both giants in court in order to prove they’re monopolising their market positions while attempting to mobilise the legions of Fortnite fans in order to do it.

While it’s certainly not a given that Epic will be able to beat the two OS providers in court; if they do we could see the following changes –

What Might Change?

A reduction in the cut from in-app purchases – It’s unlikely we’ll see the complete abolition of the 30% cut the App Store takes from in-app purchases but if Epic prevail we could see a reduction. This means that if you currently allow paid memberships or other purchases from within your app you may see a drastic increase to your profit from these purchases.

Purchases to be allowed from outside the app – Currently both parties’ terms of service bar developers from promoting alternative methods of payment from, for example, your own or a third party website. If the courts find in favour of Epic it’s likely you’ll be able to divert customers to alternative providers which are likely to take a smaller cut. This could then be fed back as a discount for your customers or a nice boost in your own profits.

The introduction of alternate App Stores to the iOS ecosystem – Google already allow the use of alternate app stores like Amazon’s App Store or the Samsung Galaxy Store. Apple on the other hand don’t allow any storefronts whatsoever to be used on their iOS platform. Naturally Google or Apple will still take some cut from these but it’s likely the amount taken from the developers will be much smaller.

What do I need to do?
Frankly, not a lot. This is an incredibly high profile court case which could wind up benefiting thousands of smaller developers who wouldn’t have the clout to take on Apple or Google individually. Whatever your thoughts on Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, Epic’s own attempted monopolising practices in the PC gaming market and their slightly dubious motivations in this case it’s true that it’s likely to lead to the biggest shake-up of the app ecosystem in over a decade and any changes are likely to be favourable to developers.

Excitingly this means that we may see applications which were previously considered un-viable becoming attractive prospects and more businesses choosing to conduct business and take payments through in-app purchases.

How Did We Get Here?

January 22nd, 1984: The Super Bowl broadcast of Apple’s famous Macintosh advertisement. It was a stunning and influential ad. Directed by Ridley Scott, it told the story of a revolutionary upstart that was going to break the totalitarian rule of the monopolist behemoth who dominated the industry; in this case IBM.

January 17th, 2020: The United States’ House Judiciary Committee held a hearing in Colorado about how big tech treats smaller companies in its orbit. Short answer: it’s often a “shakedown.” Sonos (which is suing Google), PopSockets, Tile, and Basecamp all testify to having been kicked around by Apple in various ways. Developers must pay Apple 30% of all in app purchases, pay an annual fee for a developers’ license and are forced to build their apps only on costly Apple devices.

April 3rd, 2020: It’s discovered that Apple had given Amazon a special deal which lets them do things that other developers couldn’t. Apple claimed it was “an established program,” but the truth was obvious: Amazon got a deal because Amazon had leverage.

July 29th, 2020: The judiciary committee met again, calling in the CEOs of Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook over video conference. It went better than expected, if only because the committee displayed some semblance of technical knowledge. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook and his opposite number at Google, Sundar Pichai, didn’t get pressured on App Store issues in any meaningful way.

August 6th, 2020: Apple reiterated its policies surrounding streaming games platforms: not allowed. Microsoft, Google and Facebook all would like to offer their streaming game services to iPhone users but Apple insists that it gets a cut on digital purchases and that it has the ability to directly review and list every game. Microsoft and Facebook issued condemnations of the policy.

August 13th, 2020 (D-Day – This is where it all really kicks off!!): Epic offers a new direct payment in Fortnite on iOS and Android to get around app store fees. Epic pushed a server side update to its app that wasn’t reviewed by either Apple or Google. This would be a major issue in itself but even more concerning to Apple and Google were the changes in this update. Namely offering direct payments without giving Apple or Google a cut.

The move was obviously designed to win over the users, presenting the new options with a 20 percent discount – though, interestingly, not the full 30 percent…. Make of that what you will.

In retaliation Apple kicked Fortnite off the App Store. Apple stuck to its guns. Epic immediately released a video mocking Apple’s most iconic advertisement and it became obvious that the original direct payment option was part of a much larger campaign for change. Epic intends to make this a huge issue and rally its substantial fan base to its cause.

Epic sue Apple without delay. The legal complaint, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks to establish Apple’s App Store as a monopoly and the civil suit is seeking injunctive relief to “allow fair competition” in mobile app distribution.

“Epic brings this suit to end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multi billion dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market(each as defined below),” the complaint reads.

Epic claims they’re fighting the good fight for all developers, large and small, to be fairly compensated for the apps they’ve worked so hard on. While true, Epic aren’t looking for special treatment, it’s pretty clear they’re more interested in keeping a larger slice of the pie when it comes to the cash generated by the money-churning behemoth that’s Fortnite.

Epic rallies Fortnite players against Apple with a warning that they’ll miss the next season. There’s a hashtag (#freefortnite) and free skins of the evil Apple-dictator-parody Tart Tycoon (yes, really). An FAQ appears immediately using some pretty strong language to answer users who question why they will miss out on the next season (emphasis Epic’s):

“Because Apple has BLOCKED your ability to update, when Fortnite Chapter 2 – Season 4 releases you will NOT be able to play the new Season on iOS. Make your voice heard with #FreeFortnite”

Later the same day Google also removes Fortnite from their Play Store. In a statement it also points out that there are other ways you can install apps on Android. Not just side-loading but via other stores such as the Amazon or Samsung Galaxy Stores. Potentially this is some clever maneuvering from Google to fend off the upcoming antitrust suits by showing, for Android at least, the owners of the OS aren’t the only game in town when it comes to app distribution.

Not content with suing the world’s largest company Epic also puts in their suit against Google in the same day.