$18,000 iPhones on eBay with Fortnite Installed Are a Sign of Things To Come
The battle for App Store supremacy has yet to declare a victor
A week ago, Epic Games baited Apple into giving its biggest game the boot from the Cupertino giant’s App Store. Fortnite’s popularity cannot be understated, having pocketed a staggering $1.8 billion last year. The studio earned Apple’s wrath by eschewing Apple’s payment methods for their own, circumnavigating the dreaded 30% Apple tax. Adding insult to injury is the statement from Apple that indicates that it intends to terminate Epic Games’ developer account in its entirety. The battle has clearly gone beyond in-app purchases.
One can say the same for Google, but Android users have a workaround for this predicament. They can still head to the Epic Games app and download Fortnite despite the fact that it is no longer available in the Play Store. Perhaps that is why Epic set its sights towards Apple first.
Epic Games first retaliated with a tongue-in-cheek parody of Apple’s memorable “1984” advert by switching up the chessboard. Apple now stood as the oppressor while Epic Games cast Fortnite as the redeemer. Microsoft’s xCloud service and even Facebook have a bone to pick with Apple’s draconian policies, but the dust has yet to settle on the matter.
Hot on the heels of the grand debacle, Epic’s decision to host a #FreeFortnite tournament as a farewell of sorts to their iOS fanbase is the latest move in a series of stunts that serves to bring to fight to Apple. To sweeten the deal, they’re giving away over a thousand pieces of gaming gear that support Fortnite, from Alienware laptops to consoles and Android smartphones. They’re even letting you win a Tart Tycoon outfit.
This is no longer a turf war between two organizations. The implications behind the #FreeFortnite fiasco stand to affect more than just videogames. Organizations are now rethinking their approach when it comes to handing 30% of their revenue to a marketplace that exempts some while taxing the rest. In an age where education is forced to transition to a digital medium, would 30% of your tuition fees go to Apple?
With Apple and Epic Games at each other’s throats, some have decided to cash in on the opportunity. iPhones with Fortnite installed are going for $18,000 apiece with no signs of slowing down. It’s interesting to see history repeat itself: the move is reminiscent of Flappy Bird’s breakout success. eBay had to step in to prevent an auction that was selling an iPhone equipped with the game for a startling price of $99,900. The ends to which people are ready to go for a free game is certainly a cause for concern.
Tim Cook carefully navigated a House Judiciary hearing last month when he was questioned on the decision to let Amazon Prime video rentals sidestep the regular commission.
“Is that reduced commission, such as the one Amazon Prime gets, available to other app developers?” asked Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA).
“It’s available to anyone meeting the conditions, yes,” replied Cook with tact.
The hearing ended with Cook stating that Apple “does not retaliate or bully people.” But last week’s shenanigans have certainly raised the very question that Johnson raised. “Has Apple ever retaliated against or disadvantaged a developer who went public with their frustrations with the App Store?”
Apple leaving the bout triumphant as Epic Games scurries to agree to its terms with its tail between its legs is a possibility that may come to pass. But nonetheless, the litmus test that Epic has fashioned has the potential to change digital marketplaces as we know them. Services have tried for years to stage a war on the same front that Epic Games have, albeit without a heavy hitter of an app to anchor themselves with.
Fortnite has grown into a cultural phenomenon that has gone beyond its gaming roots with film trailer debuts and virtual concerts finding a home among its massive userbase. A phenomenon that doesn’t intend on drying up anytime soon. The far-reaching repercussions of the antitrust hearing are yet to be determined.
But one thing is certain. Digital storefronts are changing. For better or worse.