Fortnite Players Stranded Amid Epic v. Apple Dispute

Will someone think of the little guy?

Key Takeaways

  • Media became enthralled with the tech dispute, fueling the contest to the detriment of mobile users.
  • Millions of mobile gamers are left to contend with the reality of a barred video game they’ve spent time and money on.
  • Fortnite competitors might be able to leverage the debacle and emerge as the dominant battle arena in mobile markets.
Fans follow the Fortnite competition during DreamHack Anaheim 2020
Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images 

#FreeFortnite has dominated social media as developer Epic Games takes aim at Apple and Google, but some mobile gamers are left wondering what the future holds as their preferred pastime remains in a state of limbo. 

The three companies hit an impasse after pricing negotiations fell through and the portable platforms proceeded to delist Fortnite from their respective app stores, revoking access players had to important Fortnite updates. 

“A lot of the mobile players that I have seen in our community seem to be rallying to the #FreeFortnite cause ... and as a player, understandably so,” podcast host and tech enthusiast NerdBomber told Lifewire over the phone. “Sure, the game is still playable if it was downloaded prior to the delisting, but if you have sunk countless hours and money into a game, it hurts to know that you’ll be gated off from new updates and seasons.”

Changing Maps

The worry of mobile-only gamers came to fruition sooner than expected. On August 20, Fortnite announced its final multiplatform tournament series: the #FreeFortnite Cup. Kicking off on August 23, four days before the rollout of Fortnite’s next game update, the cup is marketed as “the final days of the entire Fortnite community’s ability to play together” with an explicitly anti-Apple bent, including non-Apple tech prizes for the first 1,200 “apple-eaters” on the map.

Fortnite boasts 350 million registered players worldwide, of which 12 percent are mobile users, according to consumer insight firm Newzoo. That leaves 42 million players iced out of future game-changing updates. For many of these users, Apple and Google’s respective app stores are their only access to the video game. The real losers, Online Warriors’ NerdBomber says, are not the app developers (or the platform owners) but rather the casual Fortnite player.

Options for these die-hard Fortnite fans are limited. The simplest solution is to invest in a console or gaming PC. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented economic turmoil, shelling out hundreds of dollars on a gaming platform is not a financially feasible undertaking for many people. 

Working Around the Problem

Other multiplatform, massively online battle arena (MOBA) games exist, like fellow juggernaut PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) and the newly minted Apex Legends, but these options are far grittier than Epic Games’ cash cow, which trades realistic dynamism for a cartoonish aesthetic more suitable for general audiences. If the fiasco between the three tech giants remains unresolved, the landscape is primed for a new, direct competitor to take center stage on the mobile market. 

However, an unintended outcome could be a potential, post-battle Fortnite boom. With the negotiations echoing beyond tech circles into the mainstream entertainment milieu, more casual mobile gamers might find themselves itching to give the game that’s dominating headlines a try. In the interim, NerdBomber thinks they’ll just turn to Twitch streams and YouTube videos to get their Fortnite fix.

Fortnite on Twitch

But, neither Apple nor Epic Games’ bottom line matters, the Online Warriors podcast co-host TechTic told us over the phone. Instead, it’s the impact on consumers and the potential benefit the reverberation of Epic Games’ lawsuit, as both a legal case and social gesture, has on gamers’ relationship to in-game transactions. Still, the likeliest outcome is expressly less sanguine.

“While Epic is doing a good job drumming up support from gamers and making this effort seem noble to the public eye, the fact of the matter is that people have short attention spans,” said NerdBomber. “Ultimately, if this is not resolved soon, I believe people will move on ... this could pave the way for a brand new game to take over the mobile scene.”