The company behind the hugely popular game Fortnite is suing Google and Apple after being removed from their app stores.
Epic Games’ move on Aug. 13 to offer a direct payment option for Fortnite mobile players, bypassing Apple’s App store payment function and Apple’s cut of the revenue amounted to “malicious and/or fraudulent misconduct,” Apple says in a filing answering Epic Games’ suit.
That breach of contract, Apple asserts in its filing, entitles the tech giant to punitive damages, along with compensatory damages, legal fees and interest. The sought-after amount is not mentioned in the countersuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California.
“Epic fired the first shot in this dispute, and its willful, brazen, and unlawful conduct cannot be left unchecked,” Apple says in the filing. “This Court should hold Epic to its contractual promises, award Apple compensatory and punitive damages, and enjoin Epic from engaging in further unfair business practices.”
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Epic, based in Cary, North Carolina, is wielding its hugely successful free-to-play online game as a weapon in the first major challenge to Apple’s powerful App Store.
Although Fortnite is a free game – played on video game consoles, PCs, tablets and phones – players can pay for weapon and outfit upgrades to outfit their in-game personas. On mobile devices, Apple and Google both get a 30% cut of players’ spending via iOS and Android phones and tablets.
Players can buy the in-game currency, called V-Bucks for $9.99 through Apple’s App Store and Google Play – that same 1,000 V-Buck transaction costs $7.99 on PCs and home video game consoles.
Epic argued that it must charge – and consumers must pay – higher prices on Apple and Google devices, in its suit. Apple, Epic says, has set “unreasonable restraints” over in-app payments. “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” the suit says.
But Apple argues, in its counterclaims, that the App Store benefits consumers and developers alike.
“While Epic and its CEO take issue with the terms on which Apple has since 2008 provided the App Store to all developers, this does not provide cover for Epic to breach binding contracts, dupe a long-time business partner, pocket commissions that rightfully belong to Apple, and then ask this Court to take a judicial sledgehammer to one of the 21st Century’s most innovative business platforms simply because it does not maximize Epic’s revenues,” the filing says. “Apple looks forward to defending against Epic’s baseless claims.”
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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