A Fortnite player in June 2019. - ALLILI MOURAD / SIPA

#FreeFortnite! Since Apple and Google removed Fortnite from their application stores on Thursday, this hashtag is driving social networks into a panic. Epic Games, the publisher of the archipopular Fortnite video game, has brilliantly orchestrated a trap in order to have its game removed from the App Store and the Play Store and to communicate about its ouster. The publisher has also filed a complaint against Apple and Google and called on its players to campaign against the two tech giants. You don't understand anything about this battle royale between the two giants of Silicon Valley and the Chinese tech giant Tencent, which owns 40% of Epic Games? 20 Minutes explains everything to you.

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is an online video game, developed by Epic Games and released in June 2017. It can be played on almost all platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4, IOS (iPhone / iPad), Nintendo Switch and Android. Fortnite is both a construction and survival game. There are two game modes: "Save The World" where 4 players cooperate to survive in a world invaded by zombies and "Battle Royale" where 100 players compete on an island, and where the last (or the last team that survives) wins the game. The game has become a real social phenomenon: in June 2018, Epic Games announced 125 million registered players, in 2019, 250 million, or twice as many in just one year. On Twitch (the platform where gamers broadcast their games live), Fortnite is the most watched game.

Why Google and Apple Banned Fortnite?

Apple and Google charge app and game developers a 30% commission on user transactions for their sales made in the App Store and Google Play.

But Epic Games broke that rule and installed an alternate payment method on August 13, which allows players to save money for goodies and subscriptions by bypassing in-app payment systems [payments made to the inside the application] Apple or Google integrated by default, and mandatory. On iOS, Fortnite is also calling on its players to claim refunds for their in-app purchases from Apple.

Apple was obviously quick to react. “Today, Epic Games made the unfortunate decision to break the App Store rules, which apply to all developers and are designed to keep the store secure for our users,” Apple told the 'AFP. "As a result, Fortnite has been removed from the store." Google later followed suit.

Will Fortnite stop working on IOS and Android?

It is now not possible to download Fortnite for the first time from the App Store or Play Store. However, it is still possible to retrieve the app from these app stores if you have already downloaded it at least once in the past.

Video game enthusiasts using Apple-branded devices will be able to continue playing, but they will no longer receive updates, which go through the App Store.

On Android, it is even possible to download the game from a source other than the Play Store. "Fortnite remains available on Android, but we can no longer offer it on Play because it violates our rules," says Google.

Why is Epic Games suing Apple?

Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney has always been opposed to taxes imposed by app stores. If he decided not to publish Fortnite on the App Store, he would have drawn the ire of users.

His strategy is crystal clear: by knowingly violating the terms of use of the App Store and the Play Store, he forced the two tech giants to ban Fortnite and overturned public opinion on his side.

In the wake of its ouster, Epic Games decided to sue Apple. The studio accuses the Californian group of abuse of a dominant position and "anti-competitive" practices.

The group is represented by Christine Varney, a former ally of Barack Obama, a specialist in anti-competitive issues.

Another sign that this case will be a big deal?

Representing Epic in this matter is Christine Varney, a former FTC commissioner and head of the Justice Department's antitrust division under President Obama. pic.twitter.com/8rBPAgwmPr

- Brian Fung (@b_fung) August 13, 2020

"Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched and more pernicious than the monopolies of yesteryear," declaims the complaint filed Thursday in federal court.

Epic Games is asking the court to force Apple to change its rules for all app developers. "Apple imposes unreasonable and illegal restrictions to monopolize the two markets", indicates the complaint of the studio, which qualifies the commission of 30% of "tyrannical tax". “Apple has become what he once cursed against. The monster who wants to control the markets, block competition and stifle innovation, ”explains the document.

The iPhone maker is in the crosshairs of many regulators and app publishers who are contesting the company's hold on the App Store, a necessary step for downloading apps to its popular devices, from smartphones to tablets.

Apple has defended itself against similar attacks in the past by saying that commissions are used to protect apps and their users from hackers and scams. Its percentage may drop to 15% from the second year of a subscription.

Why did Epic Games achieve a masterful communication coup?

Everything was premeditated at Epic Games which brilliantly orchestrated a masterful comm. As proof, Epic Games unveiled this Thursday at 10 p.m. a short film parodying Apple's famous 1984 advertisement for the Macintosh and turning it against the Apple brand. The Cupertino company appears there as the Big Brother (in reference to the novel by George Orwell, 1984 ) that it denounced thirty-six years ago.

The big com shot of @ EpicGamesFR, editor of Fortnite. He takes the famous “1984” Apple ad, to turn it against the brand. The hashtag #FreeFortnite is launched to push Apple to remove its 30% commission on the App Store. pic.twitter.com/Kx7Catzvtb

- Raphael Grably (@GrablyR) August 13, 2020

“Epic Games challenged Apple's monopoly. In return, Apple is blocking Fortnite for a billion devices. Join the fight so that 2020 does not become 1984 ”, we can read at the end of the parody. Epic Games has also called on its users to fight on social networks with the hashtag #FreeFortnite. In a matter of minutes, it becomes trending on Twitter.

Why also file a complaint against Google?

The situation is different on Google's operating system. Android allows developers to deliver their apps through different platforms. Google still had the right to his complaint. In it, Epic Games cites the examples of OnePlus and LG, banned by Google from offering Fortnite on their smartphones outside of the Play Store. A way for the Mountain View firm to abuse its position and apply anti-competitive pressure?

Why is this war going beyond Epic Games?

Epic Games doubled its masterful communication stunt with a legal strategy to get the ban on Fortnite lifted, which would create historic case law.

Epic Games has chosen the precise moment when the US Senate is investigating the App Store and the Play Store and when the "subject of the App Store stronghold" is also in the spotlight in Brussels, notes Dan Ives, analyst of Wedbush.

The boss of Apple, and those of Amazon, Google and Facebook, were questioned at the end of July by a parliamentary commission on their practices vis-à-vis their competitors, whom many elected officials consider anti-competitive. Apple is accused of being both judge and party on the App Store, since it manages the platform and also offers its own products.

Who will win this war?

Analyst Dan Ives thinks the Silicon Valley giants will win the game, as they always do, even if they have to watch out for "cascading effects" with other developers, who will closely monitor the battle.

Spotify and Tinder are already supporting the action of Epic Games, which takes the face of leader of the sling against the giants of Silicon Valley. This is not a David against Goliath, behind Epic Games, there is the Chinese giant Tencent, which also benefits from this media stunt.

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  • High Tech
  • Video games
  • Apple
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  • Fortnite