Fortnite maker challenges Apple and Google’s app store rules through direct-payment discounts

A still images from the game Fortnite 

Source: Fortnite

Fortnite maker Epic Games on Thursday announced new payment options that allow customers to buy in-game credits direct from Epic Games on both Android and iPhone.

The direct payment option to Epic appears to skirt Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store rules, which require Epic to give those firms a 30% cut of revenue made through the app.

And it shows, again, that Epic appears willing to fight Apple and Google on terms that require developers to pay a cut of revenue earned through in-app purchases.

In July, for example, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin on “Squawk Alley” that the Apple App Store is an “absolute monopoly” and Google‘s control of Android “essentially stifles competing stores.”

Sweeney even suggested in July that Epic would be better off charging customers directly.

A spokesperson for Epic was not immediately available to comment on the news.

“If every developer could accept their own payments and avoid the 30% tax by Apple and Google we could pass the savings along to all our consumers and players would get a better deal on items. And you’d have economic competition,” Sweeney said. 

That’s exactly what it did on Thursday.

Epic now offers direct payments.

“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,” Epic said in a blog post announcing the changes. “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you.”

To avoid that fee, gamers can just pay through the new “Epic direct payment” option.

Fortnite is massively popular. Epic knows that. And it may suggest the company wants to see if Apple and Google are willing to upset Android and iPhone users by taking action against Epic.

Apple’s App Store rules say that, on iPhones and iPads, users are required to buy digital goods directly from the App Store. That means, for example, Epic may be breaking the rules by allowing users to buy goods from its own store, and at a discount. Apps that try to skirt the rules could be removed from the App Store. Similarly, Google’s rules say for “apps and in-app products offered through Google Play, the service fee is equivalent to 30% of the price.”

It’s not immediately clear, however, if Epic has a special agreement in place with Apple and Google. Apple and Google were not immediately available to comment.

In addition to Fortnite, Epic makes the Unreal Engine, which is software that makes it much easier to make 3-D video games. The company is worth $17.3 billion after Sony invested $250 million earlier this month. Chinese tech firm Tencent is also a major shareholder. 

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