Earlier today, Epic Games announced a new direct payments solution for its mobile Fortnite game, offering the same payments system that it uses for PC, Mac, and Android. Now, the versions that come from the iOS App Store and Google Play Store have direct payments. The move is a direct violation of App Store policies, which are not only strict, but this one is pretty well-known.
It's very unlikely that Epic Games wasn't aware that it was breaking the rules, and this may have been more of a dare toward Apple. Apple is calling Epic's bluff though, and now Fortnite has been removed from the App Store. While both the game and the iOS platform are massively popular, the two companies seem to be engaged in a stand-off, as is indicated in a statement from Apple to The Verge:
Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.
Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem - including it’s tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their 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. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.
Under Apple's regulations, all payments need to be processed through Apple. That way, the Cupertino firm can take a 30% vig on any transaction that passes through its services. Over the years, this policy has caused companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and more to only offer "reader" apps that serve up content, but that content needs to actually be purchased from the web. Moreover, app vendors aren't allowed to actually tell you that you can purchase the content elsewhere.
This policy has also caused vendors to raise their prices, when selling their wares on iOS. If you tried to make a purchase in Fortnite after direct payments were introduced, you'd see an option for the new payment system, and a marked up one for the iOS payment system, just in case you want to pay more.
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been critical of App Store policies in the past, and those policies have gotten Apple into some hot water lately, with Apple CEO Tim Cook testifying in front of Congress a couple of weeks ago.
Update: Epic Games is now suing Apple over its App Store policies.
Update 2: Epic has published a take on Apple's famous 1984 commercial.