'Fortnite' maker Epic Games sues Apple over App Store policies

The lawsuit comes after Apple removed 'Fortnite' from its App Store.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

Fortnite developer Epic Games is suing Apple after the company removed the game from its App Store. In a lawsuit, Epic accuses the iPhone maker of anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior. “Epic brings this suit to end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion dollar markets,” the company writes in a court filing, pointing to Apple’s control over the App Store and payments processing for in-app purchases.

Notably, the game developer says it’s not seeking monetary damages, but is instead asking the court to force Apple to change its App Store policies. Specifically, Epic takes issue with Apple’s “exorbitant” 30 percent cut from in-app purchases and the fact that the iPhone maker doesn’t allow developers to sell the same services outside of the App Store.

A significant change to Apple’s App Store rules would be a major boon to Epic. The iOS version of Fortnite has raked in more than $1.2 billion, according to data from analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Epic revealed the lawsuit after Apple booted Fortnite out of its store hours after the game started offering iOS users discounts if they made purchases directly from Epic, rather than within the game itself. “Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market,” Epic states.

The lawsuit will likely ratchet up pressure on Apple, which is already facing scrutiny over its App Store practices. The company recently got into a public tiff with another developer, Basecamp, over the company’s email app, which also sought to circumvent the “Apple tax.” CEO Tim Cook was grilled on the company’s App Store practices by members of Congress during an antitrust hearing last month.

In a statement, Apple called Epic’s actions “unfortunate,” but didn’t directly address the lawsuit.

“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. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.

"Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem - including its tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.”