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Fortnite BANNED from iPhone and Android overnight – as game maker launches major lawsuit against Apple and Google

GAMERS can no longer download Fornite from Google or Apple's app stores following shock bans issued overnight by the US tech giants.

Fortnite developer Epic Games is suing the companies over the restrictions, which were issued after Epic violated in-app payment guidelines.

Apple and Google cited a direct payment feature rolled out on the Fortnite app on Thursday as the violation.

Previously, Epic used in-app payment systems that gave Google and Apple a large share of any funds generated from player purchases.

Epic sued in US court seeking no money from Apple or Google, but rather injunctions that would end many of the companies' app store practices.

The California firms have come under fire in recent years for operating "monopolies" in which they stifle competition and take colossal cuts on sales made through their app stores.

"Apple has become what it once railed against: The behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation," Epic said in its lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California.

"Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear."

Epic also attacked Apple on social media, launching a campaign with the hashtag #FreeFortnite.

The company urged players to seek refunds from Apple if they lost access to the game, and created a parody of Apple's famous "1984" television ad.

In the parody, which quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of views, a female Fortnite fighter hurls a unicorn-shaped club to smash a screen on which an Apple-headed character speaks of "the anniversary of the platform unification directives."

Apple takes a cut of between 15 and 30 per cent for most app subscriptions and payments made inside apps.

There are some exceptions for companies that already have a credit card on file for iPhone customers if they also offer an in-app payment that would benefit Apple.

Analysts believe games are the biggest contributor to spending inside the App Store, which is in turn the largest component of Apple's $46billion-per-year (£35billion) services segment.

In a statement, Apple said Fortnite was removed because Epic had launched the payment feature with the "express intent of violating the App Store guidelines" after having had apps in the store for a decade.

"The fact that their (Epic) 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," Apple said.

Google also removed Fortnite from its Play Store, but the company's spokesman Dan Jackson declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by Reuters.

"However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play," he said in a statement.

Jackson said Epic violated a rule requiring developers to use Google's in-app billing system for products within video games.

Apple and Google were among the major US tech companies to come under anti-competition scrutiny in a hearing before lawmakers last month.

During the hearing, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook argued that Apple is not anti-competitive because it does not have majority share in any markets where it operates, including mobile phones, where devices powered by Alphabet Inc's Android have greater market share.

Epic's lawsuit, however, argued that app distribution and in-app payments for Apple devices constitute their own distinct market for anti-competition purposes because Apple users rarely leave its "sticky" ecosystem.

Epic's free-to-play battle-royal videogame "Fortnite" has reached massive popularity among young gamers since its launch in 2017.

It competes with Tencent Holdings' "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds".

The title's removal from the App Store means that new players will not be able to download it and that existing players cannot receive updates, but the game should continue to work on devices where it is already installed.

Epic Games does not disclose how many iOS users "Fortnite" has.

Many fans play the game primarily on PCs or gaming consoles while using their mobile phones as a backup, but iPhone users generate far more revenue for Epic.

What is Fortnite, anyway?

FORTNITE is an online video game played by up to 250 million people across the world.

In it, 100 players compete on their own or with a small group of pals to grab weapons, gather resources and build defences, before fighting it out to be the last man (or team) standing.

Matches take about 20 minutes, and you can drop into a new game within seconds of your previous one finishing.

It's bright, it's cartoony and it's fiendishly compelling.

Skill is rewarded but luck also plays a huge role, meaning no two games are ever the same and everyone feels like they have a chance of winning.

Fortnite has also made its developer billions.

In Europe it's rated 12+, meaning it's suitable for those aged 12 and up.

The battle royale mode is free to play, but there is also a story-driven single player and co-op mode called Save The World that players have to pay for.

Pop culture crossover events are very common because of the game's huge audience.

These involve players being able to buy themed outfits for the movie, TV show or brand, as well as getting some themed activities in-game to do too.

These might be new places to explore, new challenges to complete to win themed accessories, or new game modes that are loosely related to the theme of whatever is being crossed over with.

In both Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, "Fortnite" had about 2million downloads in July 2020, according to mobile analytics firm SensorTower.

Apple users spent about $34million (£26million) while Android users spent only $2million (£1.5million), according to SensorTower data.

Because Android functions differently from iOS, users can still download "Fortnite" from Epic's website.

They can also nab the app from other non-Google stores such as the one run by Samsung and install it on their devices, Epic said in a blog post on Thursday.

"Epic is not seeking any monetary relief, but rather only an order enjoining Google from continuing to impose its anti-competitive conduct on the Android ecosystem," it said in its lawsuit.

In a statement, Spotify Technology SA, a streaming music rival to Apple that has filed an antitrust complaint against the iPhone maker in Europe, applauded Epic's move.

"Apple's unfair practices have disadvantaged competitors and deprived consumers for far too long," Spotify said.

New Fortnite cheat makes you IMPOSSIBLE to kill and totally invisible – but could get you banned

In other news, a Mum was left devastated after her Fortnite addict son splashed $20,000 on Twitch live-streamers.

Samsung's new Note 20 smartphone comes with Xbox games as part of its bid to topple Apple's iPhone.

Microsoft will launch a second new console later this year dubbed the Xbox Series S, photos leaked online suggest.

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