Today game publisher Epic lowered the price of all the in-app purchases for the smash hit Fortnite, dropping fees for the in-game currency V-Bucks by 20%. The drop applies to all platforms, PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. It also applies to the iPhone and Android version of the game…but only if you use the new option to pay Epic directly.
Those who buy Fortnite V-Bucks with the default App Store and Play Store payment system still pay the old price. Epic announced the price drop on its blog, pointing out in no uncertain terms that Apple and Google’s standard 30% revenue cut is to blame for the extra cost when using the established systems. (The blog post is also written so that the technology and gaming press would write this exact article, I suppose.) “If Apple or Google lower their fees on payments in the future, Epic will pass along the savings to you,” says the blog post.
Epic has long had a chip on its shoulder over revenue sharing on mobile apps. Though Fortnite was released for iOS without much fuss, Epic held out on Android more than a year, hosting its own APK file and asking players to side-load it like an old-fashioned PC game. Eventually Epic relented and released the game on the Play Store, too, realizing that some of the money is better than none of the money.
Epic is daring Apple and Google to do so, knowing that Fortnite is the most-played game on the planet right now. Trying to frame this as “Apple/Google banned my favorite game because it lowered prices” is pretty savvy in terms of marketing, but Epic is playing chicken with two of the world’s biggest technology companies. Epic hopes they’ll make an exception and make a better split for Fortnite than for every other app and game. But it seems just as likely that Apple and Google will make an example out of Fortnite as a warning to other publishers not to follow in Epic’s footsteps.
It’s also a bit of a disingenuous move. In addition to the fact that Epic is still certainly paying fees for these lowered prices on Xbox, PS4, and Switch, Epic famously hosts its own game store on the PC, allowing third parties to sell on its platform just like the App Store and Play Store. Epic boasts that its split is much lower than competitors like Steam, but that’s a competitive move for a younger platform, and Epic is still very much in charge.
I would imagine that if, say, fellow enormous game publisher 2K demanded that it be allowed to violate the terms of service in the Epic Store and pay only half of its current sale fee for each game, Epic wouldn’t exactly be tripping over itself to oblige.