Apple removes Fortnite from the App Store after it offered discounted direct in-app payment, escalating the antitrust battle

Update 12:10 pm: As predicted (or even invited), Apple has kicked Fortnite off the App Store. Our story is updated below.

Updated 12:40 pm: Epic Games filed a legal complaint in the northern district of California, and is holding an event in Fortnite tonight recalling Apple’s historic 1984 Macintosh ad.

Fortnite may not be burning up the App Store charts like it used to be, but it’s still one of the most popular games of all time, with players in the tens of millions. We don’t know how many of them play on mobile devices, but Epic Games (Fortnite’s creator) is willing to gamble that entire market to defy Apple and Google’s app store rules in an escalation of an ongoing, industry-wide antitrust battle.

If you don’t know, Fortnite allows players to buy in-game stuff (outfits, dance moves, that sort of thing) with a virtual currency called V-bucks. It’s akin to the gems, diamonds, energy, and other virtual currencies used in so many other mobile or free-to-play games.

Epic Games just announced that V-bucks cost 20 percent less than they used to. If you’re playing the game on PC, Mac, or console, boom—the price is just cheaper, period.

If you’re playing on iOS or Android, however, it’s a little more complicated. When you go to buy V-bucks, you are now presented with options. If you choose to purchase through the App Store or Google Play Store, you pay the old price. Epic has added a new “Epic direct payment” option, which uses payment info attached to your Epic account (or lets you enter new payment info) and gives you the 20 percent discount.

Epic Games is quite direct in its explanation for why the price is higher for those who buy through the App Store:

Currently, when using Apple and Google payment options, Apple and Google collect a 30% fee, and the up to 20% price drop does not apply. If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.

A deliberate and direct violation

This is, of course, a direct violation of Apple’s app store rules. Section 3.1.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines spells it out: If you sell anything in your app or offer any sort of unlocked functionality, you must use Apple’s in-app payments processing exclusively. The Google Play store operates in a similar fashion, though it is possible to download and run Fortnite on an Android device directly or, on Samsung devices, through the Samsung app store.