When will Fortnite come back to iPhone (iOS)?
The story begins and ends with Apple’s tax which it levies on all the apps on the App Store. Since Apple provides the platform, they charge a 30% tax on all in-app purchases. Elon Musk recently complained about the 30% tax, too, though he reached an eventual agreement with Tim Cook.
It isn’t just the Fortnite game that was affected. Spotify has a long-time dispute with the 30% tax that Apple charges. They no longer allow you to subscribe to Spotify Premium within the app to circumvent the cut. This technique does not break Apple’s rules since their payment gateway is not used.
Fortnite already did make a semi-return to iOS via Cloud Gaming. However, Cloud Gaming has problems, and the number of people who can play falls dramatically. This is not the same as Fortnite officially making a return.
Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, tweeted something interesting on the last day of 2022. The tweet just read, “Next year on iOS”. In the same thread, a player looks to the sky to celebrate the new year. This is a heavy hint that Fortnite might return to iPhones and iPads.
Unlike Epic Games, several App Developers across the globe complained about Apple’s unreasonably high fees on in-app purchases. It withholds app-based innovation and creativity. It also stops many people from using apps since the 30% tax affects cross-platform compatibility. Developers shy away from developing iOS/ iPadOS apps because of this.
Epic Games called this an unreasonable demand, and the two companies battled it out in court for a long time. Fortnite remained banned from the App Store.
Epic broke the contract. Instead of using Apple’s payment gateways, they advertised a discount to people who bought V-Bucks directly from Epic. Apple saw this as a policy violation, which is why Fortnite was removed from the App Store.
The New EU Laws
Apple’s advantage of its App Store monopoly led the EU to make new laws. According to some recent statements, Apple will legally be required to allow sideloading on iOS. The only way to use alternate App Stores on iOS right now is through Alt Store, a long, cumbersome, and inefficient method that poses security and privacy risks.
Apple’s walled garden will crumble after complying with the new EU laws. App Developers see this as an absolute win since they no longer have to pay the 30% or 15% tax. They can host apps on their App Stores or other third-party stores and circumvent Apple’s payment gateway.
Apple is also considering opening up their NFC tool and WebKit Engine to third parties. Executives at Apple are not happy about this, and they have continuously laid out their opinions against it. They claim it’ll be a severe hindrance to user security. Third-party app stores might be a virus gateway to anyone with malicious intentions.
There are, of course, safe ways to implement sideloading. Android phones have been able to do it forever. Google Play Protect is an advanced anti-virus system that retains security even after sideloading capabilities. Apple can still implement a security system that cleaves onto a shield if they want to.
Fortnite in 2023 will not return officially through the App Store. Apple definitely will not reinstate Epic’s developer account. Epic Games didn’t comply with Apple’s rules, and since they didn’t want to pay the cut, they refused to host their game on the App Store, losing millions of players.
How will Fortnite return to iPhone?
Apple opening up their software to other App Stores will inevitably result in several developers leaving the App Store unless they reduce their tax on in-app purchases. Either way, the developers will benefit from this. If Apple does not change the tax requirement, they’ll lose revenue once the developers pull out of their store.
If they reduce the tax, Apple will still lose revenue anyway. Epic Games has nothing to lose in this situation since they will still make more money from the rapid influx of users who will return to the game.
Once Epic Games encourages several people to install the game, it’ll be the beginning of the end for Apple’s walled garden. While you can technically still play Fortnite on iOS using Nvidia GeForce, it’s not the same as directly installing the game. Unfortunately, the free version is limited to an hour of gameplay.
Sweeney’s tweet did not explicitly mention the return of Fortnite to iOS, but given the circumstances and the cryptic wording, that’s what we can assume at the moment.
How can Apple circumvent this?
Since Apple isn’t known to embrace sideloading and third-party software, it can still make the whole sideloading a mess. To discourage App Developers, they can use pop-ups that scare people from sideloading. Installing apps from third-party sources does pose a security threat, and developers are aware of that.
If developers pull apps out of the store by sorely miscalculating the number of people willing to go through the risk, they will lose millions in revenue and users. Apple’s process of sideloading apps and third-party stores might involve several extra steps and permissions, and they will prompt users to stay away.
To do this, they can cite several security and privacy risks, and a rumoured but unethical way of doing this will be voiding the warranty. If they make the process highly complicated for ordinary people, Apple still will have the upper hand.
Fortnite has also been banned from Android’s App Store, but since Android embraces third-party and open-source stores, they can effectively still retain a portion of users. Apple allows third-party stores to enable Epic Games to gain a significant number of Fortnite players back.
This isn’t just a significant win for Epic since many App Developers will attempt to host apps with their stores. However, Apple’s implementation style remains to be seen, and many things are currently up in the air.
Fortnite may soon return to iPhone
So, when will Fortnite return to iPhone? It’s mostly sometime in November 2023 (Expected), after iOS 17 is announced at WWDC 2023. iOS 17 will be announced sometime around the first week of June 2023, and it’ll make its debut with the iPhone 15 series in September 2023. After the launch, supported iPhones will receive the software. Epic Games can begin development soon after the announcement, so we will likely see Fortnite back by the end of the year.