In just a few hours, the mobile app and gaming market exploded into a flurry of news, removals, and two lawsuits, all revolving around a single game: Fortnite. Epic Games, who has spoken out and moved against the status quo in the game and app store markets, made a daring move to implement its own direct payment system to bypass Google’s and Apple’s revenue split system. It isn’t surprising that both Apple and Google have quickly removed Fortnite from their respective app stores but it’s rather curious that Epic Games quickly sued both afterward.
It definitely seems that Epic Games knew what was going to happen since it was able to file two rather lengthy lawsuits that were obviously prepared beforehand. That it silently rolled out a server-side update without informing either Google or Apple, fully knowing that the game would be removed over such violations, is pretty much the definition of “bait”. For better or worse, Google and Apple bit, hook, line, and sinker.
The lawsuit against Apple came first as it removed Fornite from the App Store first. Google followed not long after and so did the legal papers. Both lawsuits carry the same tone and allegation that the two companies use their size and position to “do evil” (Google’s least favorite phrase) on smaller competitors. In other words, it accuses Google and Apple of creating app store monopolies, which isn’t news to anyone.
What’s surprising, however, is that Epic Games ‘filing (PDF) reveals that it once had an agreement with OnePlus to pre-install its Epic Games app to make it extremely easy to install Fortnite on some OnePlus phones. Google reportedly blocked that deal out of fear that the Epic Games app would be used to bypass Google Play Store for other apps and games, too.
The timing of Epic Games’ ninja move couldn’t be more perfect, as both Google and Apple are currently facing scrutiny over the way they run their app stores. Should Epic Games succeed in winning the lawsuits, it could very well change the mobile app landscape. That said, it can’t afford to lose at least its lawsuit against Apple since, unlike on Android, it really has no other means of getting Fortnite installed on iPhones except through the App Store.