Fortnite returning to iOS says Epic as Apple agrees to “alternative app marketplaces” in EU

Fortnite developer Epic Games says it’ll be launching a native iOS version of the Epic Games Store – and bringing Fortnite back to iOS devices – following today’s announcement that Apple will soon allow sideloading and alternate marketplaces on its devices to comply with new EU rules. That’s as Epic boss Tim Sweeney calls Apple’s revised guidelines “hot garbage”.

The iPhone maker revealed sweeping revisions to its App Store guidelines – including confirmation it’ll allow developers to submit game streaming apps for the first time – earlier today, albeit with little grace. In a press release announcing the changes, it referenced the “new risks the [Digital Markets Act] poses to EU users”, and insisted the new EU-mandated options “for processing payments and downloading apps on iOS open new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats.”

Apple also says complying with the rules will mean it “has less ability to address other risks — including apps that contain scams, fraud, and abuse, or that expose users to illicit, objectionable, or harmful content.”

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Despite Apple objections, users in all 27 EU countries will, starting in March, have the option to download apps from what Apple is referring to as “alternative app marketplaces” – essentially third-party app stores. The steps developers must take, however, are a little more complex. For starters, Apple is insisting all iOS apps – regardless of where they’re distributed from – must be notarised in the name of “platform integrity and protecting users”. It’s also insisting it approves all developers via authorisation before they can operate their own stores.

Furthermore, Apple says developers wanting to make use of alternative distribution methods or alternative payment processing as per the EU’s Digital Markets Act must agree to adopt new business terms. While these will see Apple take a reduced commission on App Store apps, and will enable developers to use an alternate payment service provider within their app or link out to their own website, Apple is introducing a Core Technology Fee. This requires developers on both the App Store and alternative marketplaces to agree to pay €0.50 for each first annual install over a 1m threshold every year.

It’s these various stipulations that have got Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney – who’s been at war with Apple in US courts for years now over its iOS practices – fuming once more. In a post on social media, he called Apple’s new EU rules a “devious new instance of Malicious Compliance”, saying the company is “forcing developers to choose between App Store exclusivity and the store terms, which will be illegal under DMA, or accept a new also-illegal anticompetitive scheme rife with new Junk Fees on downloads and new Apple taxes on payments they don’t process.”

Sweeney also says Apple’s insistence on authorising third-party marketplace developers means the company could “block Epic from launching the Epic Games Store and distributing Fortnite through it… or block Microsoft, Valve, Good Old Games, or new entrants.” He’s probably also not best pleased that Epic could face an annual bill upwards of $57m in Core Technology Fees going by Fortnite’s previous 116m-strong iOS playerbase.

“There’s a lot more hot garbage in Apple’s announcement,” Sweeney adds. “It will take more time to parse both the written and unwritten parts of this new horror show, so stay tuned.”

Yet despite this “hot garbage”, Sweeney is already committing to launching a version of the Epic Games Store on iOS (and Android) when the EU’s Digital Markets Act comes into effect in March. The goal, he says, is to “become the #1 multi-platform software store, on the foundation of payment competition, 0-12 percent fees, and exclusive games like Fortnite.”

Fortnite, of course, hasn’t been available to download on iOS since August 2020 when it was booted from the App Store following Epic’s decision to deliberately circumvent contractually mandated App Store payment mechanisms within the game. Since then, Epic has partnered with Microsoft to provide iOS users with access to Fortnite via cloud streaming, but Apple’s new guidelines will be the first time Epic has been in a position to offer a native iOS version since 2020 – and the game’s social media accounts haven’t wasted a moment hyping up its imminent iOS return in the EU. Whether Epic can resist attempting to wriggle around Apple’s guidelines a second time, however, remains to be seen.

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