Fortnite, the hugely popular battle royale game from Epic Games, is finally set to make its return to iOS devices in 2024. This comes after a lengthy legal dispute between Epic and Apple resulted in Fortnite being removed from the App Store in 2020. Now, new legislation in Europe will pave the way for Epic to relaunch Fortnite on iPhones and iPads without needing Apple’s approval.
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The Removal of Fortnite from iOS
Fortnite launched on iOS in March 2018 and quickly became one of the most downloaded games on the platform. However, in August 2020, Epic intentionally violated Apple’s App Store policies by implementing a direct payment option in the app, bypassing Apple’s 30% cut of in-app purchases. As a result, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, and users could no longer download updates or play the game on iOS devices.
This kicked off a high-stakes legal battle between the two companies. Epic sued Apple alleging monopolistic practices, while Apple countersued Epic for breach of contract. The case went to trial in May 2021, eventually leading to a mixed ruling that was largely favorable to Apple. With no resolution in sight, Fortnite remained unavailable on the App Store and iOS users were left unable to play the latest versions of the game natively on their devices.
The Digital Markets Act Opens the Door
The tide started to turn in Europe with the introduction of the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA is a key piece of legislation meant to increase competition and consumer choice in the digital marketplace. One of the key provisions of the DMA is that it will require Apple to allow alternative app stores on iOS, giving developers more options for distributing their apps.
This opened the door for Epic to bring Fortnite back to iOS without having to go through the official App Store. While the DMA still needs final approval, its passage through the EU parliament in early 2022 signaled that Fortnite’s return to iOS was imminent.
Fortnite Confirmed to Return to iOS in 2024
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney confirmed in a January 2024 interview that the company is planning to use the provisions of the DMA to bring Fortnite back to iOS later in the year. While an exact release date has not been set, the launch is officially slated for 2024 according to Sweeney.
This will likely take the form of a third-party iOS app store offering a version of Fortnite available for download. Epic has not provided details on which alternative app store will distribute Fortnite or what the download process will look like. But they assured players that more information will be coming soon.
Sweeney also noted that this iOS relaunch will begin in Europe, as that is where the DMA legislation applies. Unfortunately, Fortnite’s return to iOS is not global at this point, so users elsewhere including the U.S. and UK will have to wait a bit longer.
What Game Modes and Features Will Be Included?
Epic has not specified which game modes or features will be part of the iOS version at launch. However, it is expected to provide the full Fortnite experience on par with other platforms. This means battle royale, creative mode, and likely all of the key gameplay and in-game events that have made Fortnite so hugely popular.
Cross-platform play and account syncing with other versions of Fortnite is also assumed to be enabled, allowing iOS players to compete and collaborate with friends on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, and PC. All purchased V-Bucks and in-game items should carry over to the iOS version when players link their existing Epic account.
Some features like Party Royale may not be available immediately if there are limitations imposed by using a third-party iOS app store. But Epic will likely work to provide feature parity with the versions of Fortnite on other platforms.
Will iOS Performance Be Up to Par?
One concern iOS users may have is whether Fortnite will run smoothly on their iPhone or iPad when downloaded outside the App Store. After all, Apple’s tight control over the iOS ecosystem is typically credited with providing extremely polished and optimized experiences for apps.
However, Epic has confirmed that the iOS version of Fortnite will offer the same high level of performance and optimization that players expect across devices. Modern iPhones and iPads pack enough processing power to smoothly run Fortnite’s demanding graphics and gameplay.
And with Epic now able to update and optimize Fortnite for iOS without restrictions, iOS devices should have no problem delivering the same great Fortnite experience that over 400 million players worldwide have come to enjoy. Any lag or performance issues are not expected to be the result of using an alternative app store.
Will This Impact the Apple Lawsuit Going Forward?
Epic’s confirmation that Fortnite is coming back to iOS is a positive development for players eager to enjoy the game again on their Apple devices. However, the legal conflict between the two companies remains unresolved despite this.
The DMA only applies in Europe, meaning Apple’s App Store monopoly remains firmly intact for the time being in other major markets. Epic’s lawsuit sought to challenge Apple’s practices at a global scale. So while the DMA is allowing Fortnite back into the iOS ecosystem partially, Epic is unlikely to drop its lawsuit until more meaningful change occurs.
If Epic is able to successfully relaunch Fortnite on iOS in Europe without issue, it may bolster its argument that Apple’s walled garden is unnecessary. But the lawsuit could still have years left before any final judgment or settlement. Both companies appear committed to seeing their battle through to the end.
In the meantime, iOS players will soon be able to rejoice at Fortnite finally returning to iPhones and iPads as Epic leverages new European legislation. But the game’s presence outside the App Store is just the beginning of Epic’s quest to transform the iOS ecosystem at large.
Table: Fortnite iOS Launch Timeline
|Fortnite first launches on iOS
|Fortnite removed from iOS App Store
|Epic vs. Apple trial concludes
|EU Digital Markets Act introduced
|Epic confirms Fortnite iOS return
|Target iOS relaunch window
Will Other Games Follow Fortnite to iOS Outside the App Store?
Epic’s move to bring Fortnite back to iOS through an alternative app store could potentially open the door for other games to do the same. However, Fortnite’s unique circumstances make it better positioned for this than almost any other game.
As one of the world’s most popular games with hundreds of millions of players, Fortnite has the brand recognition and eager audience ready to seek out the game outside of the official iOS channels. Epic also has the resources and motivation to undertake the massive effort required to develop, distribute, and support iOS Fortnite on its own after being banned by Apple.
Such an endeavor may not be viable for most other game developers lacking Fortnite’s market dominance. That said, if Epic is successful in its iOS relaunch, it could inspire more developers to eye alternative iOS distribution in the future. Smaller indie titles in particular may see iOS opportunity outside the App Store.
But it is unlikely that major App Store staples like Minecraft, Roblox, and PUBG Mobile would attempt to follow Fortnite’s path any time soon unless forced. Epic’s move was born more out of necessity than choice after being barred by Apple. Until similar circumstances arise, few developers currently enjoying Apple’s massive iOS reach would risk abandoning the App Store voluntarily.
Still, an iOS Fortnite return could at least put pressure on Apple to revisit its restrictive policies knowing users now have a benchmark for major apps thriving outside its ecosystem. But that depends on how smooth Epic’s iOS rollout proves to be.
The Waiting Game Continues Outside Europe
Unfortunately, players in the U.S., UK, and most other regions are still left playing the waiting game with no indication if or when Fortnite may return natively to their iOS devices. Unless Apple and Epic suddenly reach a secret settlement agreement, those iOS users have little immediate hope outside of switching to Android or playing Fortnite via cloud streaming services.
Cloud gaming services like Nvidia GeForce Now offer one potential workaround for blocked iOS Fortnite fans. These platforms let users stream and play Fortnite via the cloud onto their iPhones or iPads by launching through a web browser. But the experience still falls short of a proper native app.
Of course, many players have already moved on from iOS Fortnite by migrating to other devices like the Nintendo Switch. And some may care little about Fortnite returning to their iPhones after 2+ years away. But for loyal iOS fans holding out hope for Fortnite’s comeback, Europe’s good fortune only twists the knife further as they continue to wait in limbo.
Can We Expect Fortnite Chapter 4 on iOS?
Fortnite’s overarching story and gameplay is divided into numbered chapters, with each chapter introducing major shifts to the style, theme, and map. Chapter 2 launched in October 2019 and is still ongoing as of early