Fortnite Returning to iPhone?

image credit: Epic Games

published by Chand Bellur
November 7, 2020 at 12:45 p.m.

 

  • Apple removed Epic Games’ popular title Fortnite from the App Store after the game developer sold in-app purchases directly to customers.
  • Nvidia’s new cloud gaming service, GeForce Now, offers Fortnite for Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, and Android devices.
  • According to the BBC, Nvidia is working on a version of GeForce Now for the iOS Safari browser, which may bring Fortnite back to Apple’s closed ecosystem.

Conflict Between Apple and Epic Games

The battle between Apple and Epic Games erupted when the game developer sued the Cupertino company over alleged violation of the Sherman act. By forcing iOS users to install software solely from the App Store, Epic Games contends Apple violates the landmark anti-trust legislation.

Shortly after the lawsuit, Epic Games attempted to sell their V-Bucks virtual currency directly to iOS users through their website. Violating App Store policy, Apple promptly removed Fortnite from the App Store. Weeks later, Apple removed Epic Games’ account from the App Store, essentially banning its entire catalog.

With Apple’s current business model, developers like Epic Games must hand over thirty percent of in-app purchase revenues. Most third-party developers find this fee excessive, as Apple does nothing but host a download and handle billing. Epic Games still manages data center operations for Fortnite — the most costly aspect of serving the game to end-users. Developers contend they get minimal benefit from Apple’s thirty-percent fee.

It’s not just Epic Games that has a problem with Apple. Third-party developers such as Tile, BaseCamp, Spotify, and many others have joined the effort to reform Apple’s alleged monopolistic practices. Lawmakers in Congress on both sides of the aisle also anticipate some reform to Apple’s locked-in ecosystem.

Cloud Gaming to the Rescue

A relatively new technology, built on old fashioned client/server design patterns, allows virtually any device to play high-end games over the Internet. Cloud gaming essentially renders the game on a server, with the end user’s device being not much more than a sophisticated dumb terminal.

Apple already endeavors to block cloud gaming providers from the App Store for a variety of reasons. Most often, Apple claims that cloud gaming portals offer individual games within the app. This denies users the ability to review each game in the App Store.

The opposing argument views cloud-based gaming as being similar to video streaming. Netflix subscribers cannot review each movie or TV show directly in the App Store. Cloud-based games, with their logic running on servers, are really just interactive video. Netflix and other streaming providers have experimented with interactive content. For now, Apple differentiates apps and interactive content to benefit the App Store and Apple Arcade.

iOS Safari Browser is a Third-Party Portal

Steve Jobs initially viewed web apps as the foundation of the iPhone. After realizing that selling native apps through a locked-down App Store would be much more profitable, he walked this back. Today, the App Store accounts for a large share of Apple’s service revenues.

iOS still has a browser, albeit a very limited one. Nonetheless, Safari for iOS provides sufficient technology to run cloud-based games. This is mainly because the demands of cloud gaming on the client device are minimal. The user’s web browser need only display gaming graphics and relay controls back to the server.

Apple can’t do much to prevent third-party developers from using the Web to bypass App Store transactions. Apple’s greed and obstinance contributed significantly to this outcome. With a more reasonable fee, third-party developers would have been content to stay with the App Store. Lawmakers would have ignored Apple’s less egregious anti-trust violations.

Nvidia’s GeForce Now May Bring Fortnite Back to the iPhone

Nvidia’s new cloud gaming service, GeForce Now, brings various games, including Fortnite, to macOS, Windows, Chrome OS, and Android devices. The company will soon release an iOS Safari-compatible version of GeForce Now, which will presumably offer Fortnite to iPhone owners.

Although GeForce Now is likely to come to iOS, via Safari, Fortnite is not a guaranteed arrival. Nvidia briefly removed Fortnite from GeForce Now. Although the game is available on other platforms, it’s unclear whether Nvidia will allow one of the world’s most popular games on its new iOS gaming platform.

The fact that Fortnite is immensely popular bodes well for Nvidia, Epic Games, and iPhone owners. Given the clear benefits to all parties involved, it’s highly likely that Fortnite will return to iOS, albeit outside of the App Store.

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