Apple has removed Fortnite from its App Store, preventing players from installing one of the world’s most popular games on iPhones.
It came after a Fortnite update that let players buy in-game currency at a lower rate if they bought direct from maker Epic Games – bypassing Apple.
Epic appeared to know the ban would come, announcing it had filed a legal complaint minutes after the removal.
Apple takes a standard 30% cut of sales from its compulsory payment system.
Hours later, Google also appeared to remove the app from its Google Play Store – though it remains available on Android phones through other means, such as Epic Games’ own launcher.
On iOS, the App Store is the only way to legitimately load apps. But Apple said Epic had taken the “unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines”.
Those guidelines ban any payment system apart from Apple’s own, and has been the subject of several high-profile rows between developers and Apple.
Epic said any iPhone players who already have the app installed should be able to continue playing until the game’s next update rolls out. After that, they will lose some features.
Those on an Apple Mac computer will not be affected, since that version does not use the iOS App Store.
In addition to tweeting the legal complaint it filed in a California court, Epic also announced the imminent in-game screening of a short film titled Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite – a play on George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The novel is about a dystopian society that controls its citizens and tolerates no dissent – and was itself referenced by Apple in a famous television ad in the year 1984, when the young company styled itself as taking on then-dominant IBM.
Epic Games directly referenced that advertisement in its legal complaint, writing: “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation.”
The court documents allege that Apple effectively runs a monopoly in both deciding what apps can appear on iPhones and demanding its own payment system – with the relatively high 30% cut – is used.
Piers Harding-Rolls, games research director at Ampere Analysis, said Epic’s update breaking the rules “was done to make Apple remove the app”.
“Removing Fortnite from the App Store helps to deliver a groundswell of support for Epic, something it is trying to achieve.”
And he added that iPhones are not the biggest platform for Fortnite, but Epic will still notice its ban – the iOS version “generates tens of millions of dollars in revenue every month on Apple platforms”, he said.