Microsoft Corp is bringing the hit video game Fortnite back to iOS devices two years after Apple Inc took it off its App Store. Fortnite, produced by Epic Games Inc is one of the most popular video games of all time. But it’s been absent from Apple’s App Store and Google Play after Epic tried to circumvent the tech giants’ closely controlled stores by allowing players to make in-app purchases directly on its website. That move effectively created a workaround to paying a commission to the app stores and violating their guidelines.
Epic sued Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google in 2020, and the legal showdown has help draw criticism and regulatory scrutiny to the app store policies, which are seen as a dominant force in mobile software. In September 2021, a federal judge ordered Apple to make a major change in the way it generates money from the App Store, chipping away at its grip on the $100 billion market for mobile games. But the company said it would keep Fortnite off the App Store until all appeals are exhausted. Epic Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney has said that could take as long as five years.
Now, Fortnite will resurface on browser-enabled devices with Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service according to a statement from Microsoft on Monday. Anyone with a Microsoft account and an iOS device, Android phone or tablet or Windows PC with internet access, can download the game for free using the beta version of Xbox Cloud gaming.
“It’s an important step to add a free-to-play title to the cloud gaming catalog as we continue our cloud journey,” Microsoft said. “We’re starting with Fortnite and will look to bring more free-to-play games people love in the future.”
Microsoft has also been lobbying for regulation of the app stores as it seeks to get ahead of regulatory scrutiny of its $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard Inc., announced earlier this year. Microsoft has outlined new data-collection, competition and payment policies for its Xbox and Windows software stores that it says address regulators’ broader concerns about its rivals’ app stores.
Apple had already blocked Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service from the app store, but Sweeney noted that it’s not blocking the web site, “at least not yet.”
Fortnite previously wasn’t available on Xbox Cloud Gaming because Epic’s vice president of business development said the service would compete with Epic’s own PC offerings.
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