Fortnite and Xbox Game Pass can now come to iPhone thanks to new EU law

Fortnite is coming back to iOS (Picture: Epic Games)

Epic Games has announced Fortnite will be available again on iOS devices this year, through a new Epic Games Store app.

After Fortnite was pulled from iOS devices back in 2020, during the legal battle between Epic Games and Apple over App Store payments, a change in EU law has now contributed to the game returning to the platform.

As announced by Epic Games on Thursday, Fortnite will return to iOS devices in Europe this year through an upcoming new Epic Games Store app. Although it’s not clear exactly when.

In the announcement post, the company cites ‘new rules in Europe via the new Digital Markets Act (DMA)’ as the reason behind Fortnite’s return. As part of this act, starting in March, users of Apple’s App Store will have the option to download apps from third party app stores, or as Apple describes them, ‘alternative app marketplaces’. As this is an EU law change, it’s unclear whether anything will change in the UK.

To comply with these new rules, Apple, who is clearly unhappy with the changes, posted a series of revisions to its App Store guidelines. In the post, Apple states that ‘the new options for processing payments and downloading apps on iOS open new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats’.

‘Inevitably, the new options for developers’ EU apps create new risks to Apple users and their devices,’ the company added. ‘Apple can’t eliminate those risks, but within the DMA’s constraints, the company will take steps to reduce them.’

As part of these revisions to crackdown on potential threats, Apple is implementing notarisation for new iOS apps, which consists of a ‘baseline review’ focused on ‘platform integrity and protecting users’. It also states developers need to be officially authorised by Apple before they can operate their own stores.

The most contentious stipulation, however, is the introduction of a Core Technology Fee. While Apple will take a reduced commission on App Store apps, which was the basis of Epic Games’ issues with Fortnite on iOS in the first place, this new fee means iOS apps distributed on the App Store and alternative marketplaces will still have to pay €0.50 for each first annual install per year over a 1 million threshold.

When you consider Fortnite’s popularity, this means Epic will likely still have to pay millions of dollars to Apple, even when operating its own store.

As such, Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney has kicked off about the revised guidelines on Twitter, writing: ‘They are forcing developers to choose between App Store exclusivity and the store terms, which will be illegal under DMA, or accept a new also-illegal anticompetitive scheme rife with new Junk Fees on downloads and new Apple taxes on payments they don’t process.’

Sweeney also claims Apple’s methods of authorising new apps could ‘block Epic from launching the Epic Games Store and distributing Fortnite through it, for example, or block Microsoft, Valve, Good Old Games, or new entrants’.

Summing up his not-so-positive thoughts on the revised stipulations, he added: ‘There’s a lot more hot garbage in Apple’s announcement. It will take more time to parse both the written and unwritten parts of this new horror show, so stay tuned.’

As part of these revisions, Apple also announced it will now allow ‘streaming game services’ like Xbox Game Pass and ‘apps that provide access to mini apps and games’ on the store.

‘Apps will also be able to provide enhanced discovery opportunities for streaming games, mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins that are found within their apps,’ the announcement post states.

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In December last year, Microsoft said it plans to create a new Xbox mobile app store to rival Apple and Google. Following the company’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has repeatedly emphasised the acquisition of Candy Crush saga publisher King as a key part of the company’s strategy moving forward, as it looks to make a splash in mobile gaming.

This push for the mobile market coincides with Xbox’s clear steer towards a digital-only future, between rumours of an Xbox Series X without a disc drive, the reported shut down of physical game departments, and its subscription service Xbox Game Pass – which it can now, if it agrees to Apple’s new guidelines, get promoted onto the App Store.

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