Epic Games’ Fortnite lawsuits against Apple and Google, explained

Fortnite is one of the most popular video games on the planet, playable across computers, gaming consoles, and mobile devices. But as of Thursday, Aug. 13, it’s no longer available to download on mobile platforms — not on iOS via the Apple App Store, and not on Android except outside the Google Play Store.

That’s because Apple and Google removed the app from their respective marketplaces on Thursday for violating their rules. Immediately afterward, Fortnite maker Epic Games filed separate antitrust lawsuits against the two companies. Epic also staked out its position with a cheeky parody of “1984,” Apple’s famous Super Bowl commercial from that year.

It’s the latest, and most explosive, development in a long-simmering dispute between Epic and the two tech giants that, together, control the entire global market for smartphones. What’s the nature of the conflict? Why is it happening, and why now? What could it mean for the Android and iOS software marketplaces? And will you still be able to play Fortnite on your phone?

Why can’t I download Fortnite from the App Store or Play Store?

Epic Games direct purchase mobile screen in Fortnite on a horizontal iPhone

Epic Games direct purchase mobile screen in Fortnite on a horizontal Android phone

In an unsanctioned server-side update to Fortnite on iOS and Android on Aug. 13, Epic fired the shot heard ’round the world: circumventing Apple’s and Google’s own billing systems.
Image: Epic Games

Epic Games decided to pick a fight with Apple and Google on Thursday, Aug. 13. The Fortnite maker pulled a bold stunt that quickly snowballed into the game getting removed from both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store — all of which, it turned out, was part of Epic’s plan.

On Thursday morning, Epic introduced a new way to pay for V-Bucks, the in-game currency in Fortnite. Players on Android and iOS now had the option to buy V-Bucks via “Epic direct payment,” a route that offered them a 20% discount. If they instead decided to buy the…