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Fortnite is splitting into two different games because of Epic and Apple’s fight

Fortnite is splitting into two different games because of Epic and Apple’s fight


Apple players are losing cross-play

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Fortnite’s next season arrives tomorrow, but if you’re on iOS or macOS, you won’t be able to play it, Epic announced today. And we’re learning that’s not all: players on iPhone, iPad, and Mac will also lose cross-play Fortnite multiplayer with non-Apple platforms, Epic confirms to The Verge. That means players on Apple platforms will be stuck on the current version of Fortnite, and they’ll only be able to play with one another.

Essentially, the legal fight with Apple will, in short order, split Fortnite into two. On PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Android, Fortnite players will have access to all of the new content that’s set to arrive with the potentially Marvel-themed new season. Most new Fortnite seasons pack in significant changes, including updates to the map, new cosmetics, and new in-game rewards as part of the game’s battle pass subscription. If you’re a Marvel fan, it could be a particularly interesting one.

On Apple devices, though, players will miss out on all of that new content. The game will basically be in stasis.

Fortnite is renowned for its big in-game events, and players on Apple devices might miss out on future ones.
Fortnite is renowned for its big in-game events, and players on Apple devices might miss out on future ones.

This dark timeline was anticipated. The trouble started on August 13th when Epic added a direct payment mechanism to Fortnite that violated Apple’s rules. Soon after, Apple booted Fortnite from the App Store, which kicked off Epic’s orchestrated campaign against the iPhone maker. Epic sued Apple; published a short video parodying Apple’s “1984” commercial; posted an extensive blog calling on players to tweet the hashtag #FreeFortnite; and, a week later, announced an in-game tournament with anti-Apple Fortnite cosmetics and real-world swag. Epic was prepared for war.

To complicate things further, Apple has been cleared, at least for now, of any duty to return Fortnite to the iOS App Store, since a judge refused to grant a temporary restraining order against Apple on that basis. The court order did prevent Apple from removing all of Epic’s developer accounts for now, leaving intact the one linked with Epic’s Unreal Engine and its associated licensing business. A hearing on a preliminary injunction is scheduled for September 28th and could change either of these temporary legal decisions into more permanent ones for the length of the trial.

In the near term, any decision to change the status of Fortnite on Apple devices is in Epic’s hands. If Epic wants to bring Fortnite back to the iOS App Store on its own, Apple says the studio just needs to “comply with the App Store guidelines,” which likely means removing the direct payment option. If Epic makes the necessary changes, “we will gladly welcome Fortnite back onto iOS,” Apple said in a statement. Apple wants you to know that it’s Epic, not Apple, splitting up the Fortnite community in order to make its point.

Epic made its counterargument to that today in an update to an FAQ about its conflict with Apple:

Apple is asking that Epic revert Fortnite to exclusively use Apple payments. Their proposal is an invitation for Epic to collude with Apple to maintain their monopoly over in-app payments on iOS, suppressing free market competition and inflating prices. As a matter of principle, we won’t participate in this scheme.

You, as a mobile device owner, have the right to install apps from sources of your choosing. Software makers have the right to freely express their ideas and to compete in a fair marketplace. Apple’s policies take these freedoms away.

On Mac, though, Fortnite is installed through Epic’s own launcher — theoretically, that version of the game could have gotten tomorrow’s update without issue. But it seems to be another casualty of Epic’s battle with Apple, and it’s unclear what it will take for that version of the game to get updates again.

Apple players will be stuck on the 13.40 patch that came out earlier in August

Although Fortnite players on Apple devices won’t get any new content arriving after Thursday, they’ll still be able to play the game on the latest 13.40 patch that came out earlier this month, and they’ll still be able to play it with one another — if not with friends on PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and Windows PC. There’s even a way to reinstall Fortnite on iOS if you’d ever downloaded it before it was removed.

But that may be cold comfort, because Fortnite fans on Apple hardware will be playing the same game tomorrow that they can play today, while every other Fortnite player will be enjoying the bounties of the new season. And it seems that until something else changes between Epic and Apple, Apple players will continue to be stuck in their own inferior version of Fortnite.