The latest show to hit Fortnite's Party Island isn't a blow-out concert or Chris Nolan flick. Somehow, it's weirder. Hop in front of Fortnite's big telly right now and you'll find a call to "#FreeFortnite" from the supposed tyranny of tech giant Apple, who today removed the battle royale from the App Store for sidestepping its revenue policies. Now, Epic are taking Apple to court - and they've got an in-game ad campaign to make sure public perception is on their side.
The irony of twisting Apple's original Orwellian attack on Microsoft shouldn't be lost here.
It's a meticulous attack, I'll give them that. After brazenly offering a "don't give Apple money" button on Fortnite's iOS client, Apple predictably booted the game from the App Store. This played right into Epic's hand, with the pubs immediately firing off a lawsuit and, more bizarrely, an in-game ad campaign for their lawsuit captioned "Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite" (get it?). They had this entire animated, voice acted, edited and ready to go for a backlash that may not have even occurred.
Mind, there's something rather gross about rallying your massive, overwhelmingly young fanbase in service of what is ostensibly a revenue dispute between two billion-dollar tech companies. Even if there are very real problems with the App Store when it comes to what games are and aren't allowed on the platform and how they're allowed to monetise, it's too easy to see this kind of power pushed in dangerous directions.
Epic's plan appears to be an attempt to open Apple's "monopoly" on App Store payments to antitrust legislation. Their particular beef with Apple is twofold - not only is this an extension of Sweeney's long crusade against 30% store cuts, but Epic also criticise Apple's rules against hosting a third-party storefront on the App Store, a ruling that's kept them from bringing the Epic Games Store to iOS.
"Epic has been harmed by Apple’s anti-competitive conduct in a manner that the antitrust laws were intended to prevent," reads the lawsuit (via The Verge). "Epic has suffered and continues to suffer harm and irreparable injury, and such harm and injury will not abate until an injunction ending Apple’s anti-competitive conduct issues."
Regardless, the ball is now in Apple's court. Epic isn't demanding financial compensation, instead asking the court tear down Apple's "anti-competitive restrictions on the iOS ecosystem", and to "ensure that Apple mobile devices are open to the same competition as Apple’s personal computers" (via Gamasutra).
Whatever happens next, it sure as hell didn't show up in Orwell's copy of 1984.