Fortnite is back on iOS today... sort of. The popular battle royale game isn’t back on the App Store (where it’s been missing since Apple pulled the app from its storefront in August 2020), but iPhone and iPad owners can now stream Fortnite to play on their phones and tablets through Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, which opened up a closed beta today to test the new streaming version of the game.
Nvidia and Epic Games have been promising that Fortnite would come back to iOS through GeForce Now running through Safari’s web browser (the only way that Apple currently allows game streaming services like GeForce Now, Stadia, xCloud, or Luna to operate on iOS) as far back as November 2020, when the service first launched on Apple’s hardware. But it’s apparently taken quite a bit of time to sort out the details.
Fortnite has technically already been available on GeForce Now for Android users, but that version of the game is a streamed copy of the desktop version of Fortnite. The new version that Nvidia and Epic Games are beta testing is optimized for mobile devices, with similar touchscreen controls and menus to the old native iOS and Android versions of the game. (Nvidia warns that Android users who join the beta will only be able to play the new mobile version of Fortnite and won’t be able to use a keyboard and mouse like they currently can.)
According to Nvidia, beta sign-ups start today, with “selected members” set to get access later in January. The company says that the Fortnite beta will be a “limited time” process but that “we do not have an exact timeline for how long it will last.” Anyone interested in trying the new streamed version of Fortnite can sign up at Nvidia’s website, with both free and paid GeForce Now customers getting an “equal chance at the closed beta.”
Nvidia is notably the only game streaming service that Epic Games is partnering with for Fortnite — as a deposition in the Apple / Epic trial revealed last year, Epic deliberately isn’t allowing Microsoft to offer Fortnite as part of its xCloud service, due to concerns that xCloud would compete with Epic’s own PC offerings. Streaming Fortnite through xCloud to iOS would also require that Epic pay Microsoft’s 30 percent fee for in-app purchases — similar in Epic’s eyes to the Apple fees that led to the company’s lawsuit in the first place.
Nvidia’s GeForce Now service, on the other hand, just acts as a conduit for Epic’s existing storefront, meaning that Epic Games won’t have to hand over a cent of any of the in-game purchases players make on the new streamed version of Fortnite through GeForce Now.
Epic and Nvidia aren’t saying how long the beta will last or when to expect the GeForce Now-streamed version of Fortnite to be broadly available for all Android and iOS users. And while game streaming has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, it’s hard to imagine that the streamed version will be a better long-term solution than the native Fortnite app that used to be on the App Store. Still, for Fortnite fans looking to get a quick round in on the go, the GeForce Now option will probably be better than nothing.