“Well, crap,” I mutter, as I begin to run. It’s far too late of course. My pursuers have seen me and are now riddling my backside with bullets as I try to duck and weave among the environmental cover that’s slowly deleting. And then I see it: my salvation. Around another player’s corpse is a Hack pick-up with a circle on it. I quickly slide into it and pick it up, cackling with glee as I transform into a giant ball and bounce away from the squad chasing me.
My laughter stops as I turn around and realize, to my horror, that every one of my pursuers has the Ball Hack as well. I continue to flee but I can hear the quiet thumps of their murderous bounces keeping pace with me.
If you’ve ever played a battle royale game before, then the goal of Hyper Scape is an old song and dance by this point. Players begin each match by dropping onto a battlefield with nothing to their name, forced to survive by any means necessary–whether that’s searching for the best weapons, hunting and killing enemy players, or avoiding and hiding from fights. As the match progresses, the battlefield shrinks, increasing the likelihood of firefights breaking out amongst the survivors. You win by being the last one standing.
Apple and Epic Games’ tiff over Fortnite’s in-game currency culminated in the removal of Fortnite from the App Store on Thursday, making it probably the biggest game ever to get Apple’s boot. But it’s really just one more case of a game or a gaming app running into problems with Apple and its control over everything in the App Store’s walled garden of 1.5 billion customers.
In more than a decade of operation, the App Store for iPhones, iPads, and Macs has disallowed or removed several popular games for questionable reasons or vague infractions. Epic Games’ kind of fight is in a different class, joining scrapes major players like Google, Microsoft, and Valve Corp. have had when their apps launched, or tried to launch, in the iOS ecosystem.
You don’t have to go back very far to find Apple’s most recent problem with a major company’s gaming app. Project xCloud, Microsoft’s service that allows Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers to play their games on mobile devices, will only be available for Android phones and tablets when it goes live on Sept. 15.
The reason: Apple says xCloud violates the company’s App Store policies, although its many official statements to this end have never specified which policy, only that Microsoft is not playing by the rules expected of other developers. One can reasonably infer that this has to do with money, the same reason that brought Epic to file a lawsuit against Apple on Thursday.
Project xCloud is a perk of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and Microsoft sells and operates that away from the App Store, meaning Apple doesn’t get any cut of the action. Neither does Google for allowing xCloud functionality on Android devices, but Google evidently has no problem with that.
Apple’s official statement on the matter last week appealed to the ideal that the App Store is “a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps.” The company added that “gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers.”
Microsoft shot back that whatever Apple’s problem is with xCloud, Apple is the only company to have one.
“Apple stands alone as the only general purpose platform to deny consumers from cloud gaming and game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge. “And it consistently treats gaming apps differently, applying more lenient rules to non-gaming apps even when they include interactive content.”
That last portion of Microsoft’s statement mirrors a complaint Epic Games made in an FAQ about its V-Bucks price drop, which precipitated Thursday’s legal hostilities: “Thousands of apps on the App Store approved by Apple accept direct payments, including commonly used apps like Amazon, Grubhub, Nike SNKRS, Best Buy, DoorDash, Fandango, McDonald’s, Uber, Lyft, and StubHub.”
Epic, however, then came straight out to say Apple makes a bogus claim that its tight control is to ensure safe and secure transactions. “In operating Fortnite on open platforms and operating the Epic Games Store, Epic has processed over $1.6 billion of direct payments successfully, and uses industry trusted encryption and security measures to protect customer transactions.”
For now, Microsoft says “we do not have a path to bring our vision of cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to gamers on iOS via the Apple App Store.” The company says it is still “committed to finding a path,” though.
“We believe that customer should be at the heart of the gaming experience,” Microsoft added, “and gamers tell us they want to play, connect, and share anywhere, no matter where they are. We agree.”
Google hasn’t managed to get its streaming service — again, for which its customers pay — onto iOS devices, either. Apple’s statement last week also applied to Stadia, when Apple implied that the problem with it and xCloud is because both of them violate App Store rules, “including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search.”
To put a finer point on the money/control issue, a cloud-based service like Stadia means Apple users might be playing games that haven’t gotten Apple’s scrutiny and seal of approval. Which more or less means, games that aren’t sold by Apple and generating a cut for Apple.
The last line of Apple’s section on “Remote Desktop Clients” nearly rules out cloud gaming services by name, too: “Thin clients for cloud-based apps are not appropriate for the App Store.” We say “nearly” because Apple’s choice of language leaves open the possibility that an “inappropriate” app might be approved anyway. Again, Apple makes the rules.
The Verge pointed out that a cloud gaming service called Shadow operates on iOS devices, after making changes that made the app more like a remote desktop mirror, and by renting cloud server access to its users, which technically answers Apple’s insistence that a copy of these games be on a drive that the user owns. And that brings us to …
Valve’s streaming service has zip to do with the cloud or subscriptions. It allows users to stream games from their Steam PC onto a tablet or phone. When Valve announced the launch date for its mobile client, it did so expecting an iOS launch would be kosher, too. Apple, after all, approved the Steam Link app on May 7, 2018.
And then, it was un-approved. Three weeks later, Valve gave a statement explaining that Steam Link would not launch for iOS, and that Apple rejected it “citing business conflicts with app guidelines that had allegedly not been realized by the original review team.”
Valve appealed to Apple on the grounds that Steam Link was no different than “numerous remote desktop applications already available on the app store.” But that appeal was denied. It came out, well after the fact, that Apple’s big problem with Steam Link was apparently the ability for users to buy video games through it.
Astute readers might recall that Sony’s PlayStation 4 Remote Play app launched in March 2019, and that users may also purchase games from the PlayStation Store with it. Why is that OK, but Steam Link wasn’t? Who knows.
If Apple is putting its foot down with the likes of Google and Microsoft, what’s a little company like Facebook, after all? The New York Times reported in June that, over the preceding four months, Apple had slammed the App Store door on Facebook Gaming five times.
The Times quoted insiders saying Facebook Gaming ran afoul of Apple rules against apps whose “main purpose” was to distribute casual games. But it also doesn’t help that Facebook Gaming appeared to compete directly with Apple’s own video game sales, including Apple Arcade, the company’s $4.99 subscription service entitling users to a library of high-quality mobile titles.
But last week, Facebook Gaming did launch for iOS — you just can’t play any games with it. Facebook couldn’t get Apple to return its calls about an appeal until the company submitted the app with the “play now” feature removed. The Kafkaesque launch of Facebook Gaming without any gaming clearly frustrated Facebook and its most senior executives. The platform’s official Twitter feed also weighed in with a none-too-subtle visual explanation of what one can and cannot do on Facebook Gaming.
2/ But for FB game developers and players…we have some bad news. After months of submissions and repeated rejections by Apple, we’ve had to remove instant games entirely from the standalone app. pic.twitter.com/aydUh0EgSM
Vivek Sharma, Facebook’s vice president for gaming, charged that Apple had caused “shared pain across the games industry, which ultimately hurts players and developers and severely hamstrings innovation on mobile for other types of formats like cloud gaming.”
Recently, players have run into bizarre visual bugs. For some reason, picking up or swapping to certain weapons causes gun textures to freak out. Polygons leap off the gun, creating a jumbled mess around it. In some cases, the textures from the gun wrap around the player, creating a blob of pointy, colorful triangles. In even more advanced cases, this bug creates a visual box around the player, turning them into a kind of glitchy cube.
This bug obviously makes enemies pretty difficult to spot, as seen in the clip above. This is ruining firefights for some players, and makes winning a much more frustrating experience than usual, as you have to fight both your opponent and the visual bug.
But the weapon bug also appears to hinder the visibility of the player using it.
We’re currently fast-tracking a fix to address the recent graphical corruption bugs some may be seeing on weapons and around the map in Warzone. We are targeting to release this fix as soon as possible and will provide more details as they become available.
According to Joe Cecot, co-design director for multiplayer at Infinity Ward, this solution will need its own patch — meaning the studio can’t quickly hotfix the issue. It’s currently unclear when Infinity Ward will provide a fix, or why the bug is happening in the first place.
We’ve reached out to Infinity Ward about the bug and the timing around a fix.
Sometimes the company’s limitations can force positive change. When Apple asked game developers to put in loot box odds, they did it. Years of public concern over video games’ proximity to gambling didn’t push developers to add transparency as fast as a new guideline rule for the App Store did.
But quite often, Apple’s policies can be needlessly restrictive, both artistically and commercially. Despite years of criticism, the App Store — one of the biggest storefronts in the business — has a dearth of games about serious topics. Apple doesn’t like them, so they’re not on the platform, and that’s that.
On the App Store, Apple gets what Apple wants. So when Apple asks that developers fork over 30% of in-app purchases as a commission, everyone falls into line. If they don’t agree, like with Apple’s recent decision to keep Xbox streaming service xCloud off the App Store, they must take their toys to another playground.
What Apple says, goes. That is, until now.
Fortnite developer Epic Games surprised everyone on Thursday by attempting to circumvent Apple’s payment processing. The plan was to give players an additional purchasing option for its digital currency: Fans could either buy V-Bucks (Fortnite’s in-game currency) from Apple as usual, or they could choose to buy directly from Epic Games at a 20% discount, with every penny ending up in Epic Games’ pocket instead.
Hours later, Apple retaliated by taking down the ultra popular battle royale game from its platform. Epic, it seems, was expecting this move. Not only did Epic launch a Fortniteevent to mock Apple, but the North Carolina-based company immediately filed a lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of maintaining a monopoly on the iOS distribution market and payment processing.
What happens next is anyone’s guess, though it will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the future of video games on the App Store. If Epic wins the fight, developers might have more leeway in determining Apple’s cut of in-app purchases is in the future, if not feel galvanized to rebel against its seemingly established rules. Epic appears committed to establishing a fairer game distribution market, leading by example by only taking a 12% cut from games sold on its Epic Games Store. Valve’s storefront, Steam, by contrast, asks for 30%, but the most successful games give Valve a 20% cut.
The whole situation might seem like an ambitious and risky swing to take at a company that’s infamous for not budging, but Epic is in fighting shape. Over the last few years, Epic has continually used its enormous size and influence to force hulking tech companies and marketplaces to bend in ways that seemed impossible until Epic entered the ring. As an example, for decades, major video game hardware makers all provided their own distinct ecosystems that did not overlap — if you had a PlayStation 4 game, you could only play with other PS4 players. The same was largely true for Nintendo and Microsoft, the other two video game hardware giants. As a result, players were often locked into playing on the same hardware as their friends and family.
Then came Epic, forcing the issue. Infamously, Epic Games once “accidentally” allowed players on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to play Fortnite with one another. It was a calculated move that suddenly had everyone thinking: If it’s this easy to let people come together across platforms, why in the world aren’t hardware makers letting us do it? Why do we have such arbitrary borders dictating who we can play with? It was only a matter of time before Sony, PlayStation, and Nintendo fans were all loading into the same Fortnite lobbies.
Fortnite also has the distinction of being the only game on the Nintendo Switch that allows you to use voice chat with a standard headset, without having to go through the Japanese company’s proprietary chat app. This may sound small, but Nintendo is probably the closest thing that video gaming has to an Apple — huge, monolithic, and endlessly stubborn. But when it comes to Fortnite — one of the most popular games on Earth — it’s very hard to say no.
But if you do say no? That’s OK. Epic can take it, as evidenced by Thursday’s sudden legal battle with Apple. Nothing is a given when you’ve got piles of money to burn, as Epic does. Spending money is a strategy that has worked wonders for them so far. When Steam, Valve’s digital storefront, seemed like an unstoppable monopoly in the realm of PC gaming, Epic Games simply started buying up exclusives and giving away games in droves every week. It didn’t matter that, arguably, the Epic Games Store wasn’t as fleshed out as what Valve offered, or that most of your friends were probably on Steam. Suddenly, not downloading the Epic Games launcher and enjoying its endless goodies seemed like a knuckle-headed move.
This is the danger that Apple now faces: If it doesn’t budge, Fortnite players might pick their things up and move to a platform that lets them play their favorite game. Fortnite just started a new season with all sorts of new features, like rideable cars. Every moment that passes will test a fan’s patience; already, there’s a hashtag full of fans who are bemoaning Fortnite’s iOS disappearance.
Epic, though? It’s valued at $17.3 billion and has plenty of partners on other platforms — along with its own storefront. The company can fight for however long Apple wants to stretch things out. And so far, Epic hasn’t lost.
After seven seasons and 136 episodes, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELDhas finally come to an end. This final season saw the team travel through time, then fight Chronicoms and HYDRA in a new timeline that quickly went off the rails.
That’s a big task in and of itself, but the finale succeeds thanks to doing what the show is best at: being completely absurd, but totally earnest.
[Ed. note: This contains spoilers for the seventh season of SHIELD, including the two-part finale, “The End is Always at Hand/What We’re Fighting For.”]
Behold, the deus Fitz machina
As the finale opens, things aren’t looking good for the Agents. They’re still in 1983 and there’s nothing left of SHIELD but their group and a ragtag group of survivors. The only hope lies in Leo Fitz, who the Chronicoms and Nathaniel Malick know is capable of stopping their plans, but he’s been MIA all season and Simmons can’t remember where or when he is because she and Enoch repressed all her memories of him. The good news is that their Chronicom buddy Enoch (RIP) left pieces of a device with various SHIELD agents over the decades, and when assembled together, brings the genius right to his friends.
Fitz and Simmons decided to live a normal life while they could, even having a daughter named Alya. But by the finale, it was time to deal with their Chronicom threat back home. The Agents know they can’t leave this timeline to suffer, so they do the next best thing: use their ship’s time drive to bring the enemy fleet back with them to 2019 via the Quantum Realm. What follows is a conclusion to the threat in a way that’s nothing if not inspired.
Yes, Daisy uses her Quake powers to kill Malick and destroy the fleet, and it’s awesome. But the true savior of the day was the power of empathy. It’s thanks to the respective powers of Melinda May and Kora — Daisy’s sister who died in the original timeline, but who is very much alive in the new one — that the Chronicoms stop attacking. It’s cheesy, but it also honors Enoch’s memory, as he considered the Agents his friends and family.
With so much time travel and the use of the Quantum Realm, this season feels a lot like Agents of SHIELD’s version of Avengers: Endgame. Going into the finale, it would’ve been reasonable to assume that one or two of the Agents would sacrifice themselves to save everyone else.
This didn’t turn out to be the case at all. In fact, the show refreshingly gives each of the main cast their own happy endings. Whether it’s Fitz and Simmons retiring to raise Alya or Daisy traveling through space with Kora and Sousa, the show laughs at the idea of bittersweet endings. Coulson, once dead but now revived as an LMD, makes peace with his new lease on life. In fact, he’s decides to travel the world in his flying car, Lola. May went from being a gruff instructor to a teacher at Coulson Academy. Despite Enoch’s grave warning of their breakup before his death, they’ll all still be together and in each other’s lives, thanks to VR hangout sessions. (Except Deke, happily leading SHIELD in the other timeline.)
So much of the MCU feels like homework, and SHIELD certainly did at times. But like all jobs, the best moments come from the coworkers and what you do together. And if you’re good enough friends, you’ll always keep in touch, even if one of you is on the other end of the galaxy.
Farewell, Agents of SHIELD. Thanks for the memories and the shotgun axes.
Though Fortnite is no longer downloadable through the App Store, it’s still playable. Users that have the game downloaded on their devices can still launch and play the game. Players who previously downloaded Fortnite using their Apple IDs can also pull the game from the App Store by going to purchases and navigating to the “Not on this iPhone” menu. Even lapsed players, who haven’t updated the game recently, can launch it to install new updates.
Rather than tolerate this healthy competition and compete on the merits of its offering, Apple responded by removing Fortnite from sale on the App Store, which means that new users cannot download the app, and users who have already downloaded prior versions of the app from the App Store cannot update it to the latest version. This also means that Fortnite players who downloaded their app from the App Store will not receive updates to Fortnite through the App Store, either automatically or by searching the App Store for the update.
Ok I just bought 2,000 v bucks using the epic discount and the regular Apple price. Both still worked. Apple can still collect fortnite money. pic.twitter.com/CgK6AYBbnm
Epic Games clarified this in a followup post on Thursday, saying players will have no issue playing already downloaded content. However, once Chapter 2, Season 4 begins (approximately two weeks from now), iOS players will be unable to access “any new content or the new Battle Pass.”
“Because Apple has BLOCKED your ability to update, when Fortnite Chapter 2 – Season 4 releases you will NOT be able to play the new Season on iOS. Make your voice heard with #FreeFortnite,” Epic said in the announcement.
At the moment, players still have the option to either buy V-Bucks through the iOS App Store, or use Epic’s new, cheaper direct-purchase option. Given the legal battle, it’s possible that may not be the case for long.
Much like the original Apple ad, the Fortnite short is about a dystopian society that is ruled by a monolithic totalitarian government that controls everything about its population, forcing them into total conformity. This leads to a population that’s stripped of individuality, marching in sync, dressing identically and all staring transfixed at a giant screen where a man with an apple-shaped head reminds them of the importance of their conformity.
“Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the platform unification directives,” the giant talking head says. “For years they have given us their songs, their labor, their dreams. In exchange, we have taken our tribute, our profits, our control. This power is ours and ours alone, we shall prevail.”
Finally, we see a lone character in color, the Bright Bomber — one of Fortnite’s most iconic skins. She runs into the room and hurls a giant hammer at the screen, cracking it and destroying the screen with the giant face.
The short certainly has somethings in common with George Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name, including the idea of a uniformed and homogenized population controlled by a totalitarian government. But the more striking similarity is to a 1984 television commercial that teased Apple’s first Macintosh computers.
The feud began, at least in the small scale, when Epic Games added an option to the iOS version of Fortnite for players to purchase V-Bucks — Fortnite’s in-game currency — directly through Epic, rather than through Apple’s App Store.
According to Apple’s current policy, most apps — but especially games — must allow in-app payments to be handled through Apple. Apple explains this as a security measure, but Apple also takes 30% of the revenue from these apps or in-app purchases. This specific policy is what Epic seems to be circumventing with this new addition to Fortnite.
A few hours after Epic’s move to circumvent Apple’s rules, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store. Epic then fired back with the announcement of this short and the revelation that it had filed an official legal complaint against Apple — a possible first step in a lawsuit.
In the first words of the complaint, Epic and its legal team make reference to the year 1984, the first Macintosh computer, and, of course, the infamous Super Bowl ad.
“In 1984, the fledgling Apple computer company released the Macintosh — the first mass-market, consumer-friendly home computer,” the complaint reads. “The product launch was announced with a breathtaking advertisement evoking George Orwell’s 1984 that cast Apple as a beneficial, revolutionary force breaking IBM’s monopoly over the computing technology market.”
The complaint also quotes Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs’ introduction of the commercial which reads, “it appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money … Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?”
Now with this new “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” in-game short, Epic has cast itself as the Apple of a new age, taking on tech’s biggest company.
The complaint continues, “Fast forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear.”
The complaint then moves into the heart of its claim: that Apple uses “anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices in markets for the distribution of software applications to users of mobile computing devices like smartphones tablets, and the processing of consumers’ payments for digital content used within iOS mobile apps.”
It’s worth noting that while this is Apple’s general policy, it already allows certain apps and publishers, such as Amazon, to avoid the in-app-purchase “tax” that other developers are subject to.
Epic’s complaint then goes on to describe Apple’s policies as “anti-competitive,” outlining the specific laws that Apple violates, both in California and in the context of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The complaint concludes with a request that the court issue an injunction prohibiting Apple’s ability to continue any of these policies with regard to the App Store.
As for Epic’s in-game video, it ends exactly like the original Apple ad, but with one key addition. A brief message:
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming “1984.”
The video concludes with a black screen and the hashtag: #FreeFortnite.
The film adaptation of Robert Kimmel Smith’s The War With Grandpa was originally supposed to hit theaters in February of 2018, but it got thrown into film purgatory when its original distributor, The Weinstein Company, filed for bankruptcy. Now, in 2020, it’s set to see the light of day, with a theatrical release scheduled for Oct. 9.
Robert De Niro stars as Ed, an old man who comes to a compromise with his daughter Sally (Uma Thurman). Instead of being sent to live in a nursing home, he’ll come to live with Sally, her husband (Rob Riggle), and her two kids, Mia (Laura Marano) and Peter (Oakes Fegley).
Unfortunately, the arrangement doesn’t suit Peter, who has been kicked out of his room so that Ed can move in. He declares war on his grandfather, and rallies his school friends to help him out, while Ed recruits his pals — Jerry (Christopher Walken), Danny (Cheech Marin), and Diane (Jane Seymour) — to retaliate.
The trailer has exactly the kinds of pranks you’d expect — foam sealant in place of Ed’s shaving cream, diaper jokes from the kids and the old crew — as well as Christopher Walken riding a hoverboard.
The War With Grandpa is set to hit theaters Oct. 9.
Apple said the new payment system was “not reviewed or approved by Apple,” and that it would return Fortnite to the App Store once the payment option is removed. Now, Epic is looking to the court system for help in addressing what it calls Apple’s monopolization of the industry. It’s not asking for monetary damages; Instead, Epic wants the court to force Apple away from its “anti-competitive restrictions.”
Throughout the complaint, Epic’s lawyers reference Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, which was directed by Ridley Scott as a reference to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four — and IBM’s monopoly over the computer market.
“Fast forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” Epic’s suit reads. “Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceed that of any technology monopolist in history.”
Epic’s lawyers cited Apple’s domination over app distribution and payment, which they called “unlawful.” They called the 30% “tax” on sales “oppressive.” According to the complaint, Apple has refused “to let go of its stranglehold on the iOS ecosystem,” which it said hurts Epic, its competitors, and consumers.
The lawsuit suggests Apple has violated the Sherman Act, which is an antitrust law that prohibits monopolization. Epic is also calling on the California Cartwright Act and California’s Unfair Competition Law.
Epic Games will debut a short event titled Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite in Fortnite’s Party Royale mode on Thursday at 4 p.m. EDT — a short that appears to be both a response to Apple’s removal of Fortnite from the App Store and a parody of Apple’s iconic 1984 TV commercial that introduced the world to the Macintosh.
Apple’s “1984” ad was directed by Ridley Scott and presented the computer maker as an upstart smashing the totalitarian control of Big Brother — a stand-in for IBM — from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. Presumably, Epic now sees itself as the little guy (despite a recent valuation of more than $17 billion) challenging Apple’s dominance.
Here’s how Apple co-founder Steve Jobs prefaced a preview of the ad in 1983 at a corporate keynote:
It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?
Epic is now using its public forum, where millions of Fortnite players can hear its side of its battle with Apple, to deliver a message. You can watch it in Fortnite Thursday afternoon.