Apple said the game developer broke the rules in the App Store for "violating" payment guidelines. One of the world's most popular video games is now under threat on Apple devices.
Apple removed the popular video game "Fortnite" from its app store Thursday for violating the companies in-app payment guidelines, with the developer Epic Games responding by suing the iPhone maker.
Google also removed the game from its Play Store.
The move comes as Apple comes under intensified scrutiny for its tight grip on its App Store, with Epic Games calling on a federal judge to stop the tech giant's "anti-competitive conduct."
Epic Games, the company that developed and published the game, had said in a blog post Thursday that it was introducing Epic Direct payments, a direct payment plan in Apple's iOS and Google Play. But Apple said the move violated its guidelines.
"Epic (Games) enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services," Apple said in a statement.
Apple added that Epic Games had other apps on the App Store for a decade and benefited from its tools, testing and distribution. The tech giant said it was working with Epic on a resolution and return the game to the app store.
The shooting video game is free to play, but players must pay for extras in the game such as other weapons and skins for their character. Apple takes between 15% and 30% from in-app revenues purchases. It can also be played on Android, personal computer and gaming consoles.
Mobile app data analysis firm SensorTower said the game was downloaded 2.4 million times in July and generated $34 million (€28.8 million) on the App Store. Since its release on iOS in 2018, the firm said the game has been downloaded 133.2 million times and generated $1.2 billion on the App Store alone. Some 350 million people have played the game since its world release on gaming systems in 2017.
Though the app was taken down from the App Store, it will continue to work on devices where it was already installed. But new players will be unable to download the game and current players would not be able to receive updates to the game.
Epic Games filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday in response to Apple taking down the game.
"Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation," said a part of the lawsuit. "Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear."
Epic Games was not seeking money from Apple, but an injunction against many of Apple's practices surrounding the App Store, which is the only way to distribute software on many Apple products.
The Twitter page for the game said it "defied the Apple Store Monopoly" and to "stop 2020 from turning into "1984" in reference to the infamous Apple Computer commercial from 1984.
This article has been updated to reflect that Google also banned the game. At the time of initial publication, only Apple had done so.
kbd/rt(AP, AFP, Reuters)