‘Fortnite’ Looks to Sidestep Apple, Google App Store Fees With 20% Discount for Direct Payment

Epic Games - Fortnite - CHAPTER
Courtesy of Epic Games

Epic Games is trying to skirt the 30% revenue cut taken by Apple’s App Store and Google Play — announcing a 20% discount to “Fortnite” players who purchase the game’s virtual currency directly from Epic, instead of from Apple or Google.

“If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you,” the company said in announcing the mobile direct-payment option Thursday.

It’s not clear how Epic is circumventing the Apple App Store and Google Play rules for “Fortnite” in-app payments, which normally require app developers to use their payment systems (and pay the 30% “tax”). According to Epic, multiple apps have been cleared by Apple to use direct payments, including those from Amazon, Grubhub, Best Buy, Fandango, Uber, Lyft and StubHub.

[UPDATE: Apple and Google both pulled “Fortnite” from their app stores over the move to bypass in-app payments. Epic Games sued Apple, alleging anticompetitive conduct.]

Under the new “Fortnite” mobile pricing, 1,000 V-Bucks cost $7.99 directly from Epic, compared with $9.99 if bought through Apple or Google in-payment systems.

Also Thursday, Epic announced “permanent” discounts of up to 20% on other platforms, reducing the price of cash purchases and “Fortnite” V-Bucks — used to acquire a Battle Pass subscription, gear, outfits and other accessories for the game — on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac.

Epic says that to date it has processed over $1.6 billion of direct payments successfully on “open platforms” and the Epic Games Store. Players who already have a payment account saved with Epic on PC or Mac can use the same account on mobile for iOS and Android using the App Store and Google Play.

Previously, Epic had avoided paying Google for payments in the “Fortnite” Android app by distributing it outside of the Google Play store. Last year, the company asked Google to carry “Fortnite” in Google Play without taking the standard 30% cut; Google declined so Epic this past April grudgingly agreed to the in-app payment rule to get published in the Google Play store.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has slammed Apple and Google over their required app-store fees, saying they’re an unfair abuse of their market power. “Apple has no right to take any percent of any company’s revenue just because they made the phone people use to access the stuff,” he tweeted last month. In the case of Google Play, he has said that the “tying of a mandatory payment service with a 30% fee is illegal in the case of a distribution platform with over 50% market share.”

In contrast to the iOS and Android stores, the Epic Games Store charges third-party partners a 12% commission fee.

Apple has had public disputes with app developers looking to avoid the in-app payment fees, while it has granted exceptions to certain partners including Amazon Prime Video. In addition, apps from companies including Netflix and Spotify are distributed in Apple’s App Store and Google Play but no longer let customers subscribe through their respective in-app payment systems.

Last week, Epic Games announced $1.78 billion in new funding, including $250 million from Sony. Sweeney remains the controlling shareholder of the company.