One of the biggest topics in the tech industry over the past year or so has been the battle between Epic Games and Apple. Epic Games added the company's internal payment service to Fortnite and Apple lost its collective mind. The company banned the game from iOS and revoked the company's developer key, meaning that not only Fortnite, but all Apple-based development was dead, including Unreal Engine. But now, with the help of Microsoft, Fortnite is back on iOS devices.
Epic Games has long disagreed with the rules of the mobile app stores - particularly the forced integration of their payment systems. For example, Apple takes 30% of the cost of anything purchased in-app. But, if you are a studio like Epic Games whose titles are available across various platforms, you've already got your own payment processor, for which you pay a lot less than 30%. This is why Epic took the step to introduce its own payment processor into the iOS and Android versions of Fortnite. To add insult to injury, they offered a discount for using their system.
Apple pulled the game and the company's developer key, which nearly immediately resulted in a lawsuit from Epic. The suit, which exists within the United States and European Union, has been filed with wild revelations, unexpected participants, and surprising defeats. Epic has contested the result but has also been looking for a way to get around the rules.
This week, Microsoft and Epic Games announced that Fortnite has come to the Xbox Cloud Gaming. The move brings the game back to iOS devices through Microsoft's popular game streaming service. Bringing the game to streaming through the browser means that Epic Games and gamers are now able to get around the Apple rules and around the block from the company. To keep the ban in place, Apple would need to also ban browsers from their devices, which seems like an overreaction.
For gamers who want to get back into the mobile Fortnite experience (or play on a computer without needing to install the game), you'll only need a browser on your device and internet access. Head to the Fortnite game on Xbox Cloud Gaming, sign in with your Microsoft account, and you're ready to play. You can interact with the game via touch or controller, making it a good experience for all gamers.
This represents the first time that Microsoft has made a game freely available on Xbox Cloud Gaming. Normally, to play a streaming game through the service, you need to be a subscriber to Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $15 per month. However, Epic Games has said that Fortnite will remain free on the service, which means that it is a perfect replacement for the previous offering, plus a great way to annoy Apple.
The big question that this moves raises is, could this be a viable business option for Microsoft and Google (whose Stadia service is on life support) to offer to publishers for games that want to avoid iOS and Android's policies? It would seem unlikely that Google would do something to so directly undermine themselves, but this could be a big deal for Microsoft and Xbox Cloud Streaming. In fact, there's no real reason to limit the feature to just games - they could make it so you could stream the Amazon app to your phone so you can still purchase digital assets.
The other possibility is that this will reawaken the web as a place for business and entertainment instead of directly installed apps. Many companies already offer Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which can be installed on your iOS, Android, and Windows devices. Being able to stream games really does make the web a solid place once again.