“Fortnite” is back on the iPhone thanks to Microsoft’s cloud gaming

“Fortnite” is back on the iPhone thanks to Microsoft’s cloud gaming
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Once again, it is possible to play “Fortnite” on your iPhone (or any iOS device). On Thursday, Microsoft announced that the popular battle royale is now free for mobile browsers through the Xbox cloud gaming service, which allows gamers to stream games directly to their devices.

Microsoft’s partnership with “Fortnite” maker Epic Games bypasses Apple’s App Store, which removed “Fortnite” in 2020 after Epic allowed players to pay them directly, bypassing Apple’s 30 percent commission on all in-app purchases. Epic ended up suing Apple over the tech giant’s business model and the lawsuit became a landmark case about how people pay for services on their phone. Last year, a federal judge ruled that Apple must allow app developers to “direct” customers to alternative payment processing services, but ruled that Epic failed to prove that Apple is a monopoly.

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“Fortnite” is one of the most popular games ever made and is not yet available for download on the Apple App Store or Google Play store. Both Epic and Apple appealed the ruling last year, and Epic has a separate case against Google over its Google Play store. Apple has said that it will not allow “Fortnite” to return to its store until the verdict in the case is final. Now, when using Microsoft’s cloud service, all you need to play “Fortnite” is an account with Microsoft and a device that can browse the Internet. There are no membership fees and no apps to install.

Epic Games declined to answer questions about the partnership. A Microsoft spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. Taking to Twitter, Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, called the partnership “monumental news,” referring specifically to the fact that the streaming setup will work around Apple’s payment system.

It’s unclear if Microsoft will charge a fee for any in-game purchases through its cloud service. Florian Ederer, an associate professor of economics at the Yale School of Management, wrote in an email that the partnership is “a great opportunity” for Microsoft to expand its existing catalog of games available to stream. That said, Ederer said that a player’s gaming experience can never be as good as it is in an app.

“Given the Internet connection of most players, the fix remains suboptimal,” Ederer wrote. “This may be less of a threat to Apple as gamers may not be willing to accept the higher latency and worse graphics of cloud-based gaming.”

last aprilEpic Games decided not to offer “Fortnite” on Microsoft’s gaming cloud service because the developer originally viewed the platform as a competitor to Epic’s own digital game store, according to a report by The Verge. Ederer told The Post that Epic’s decision not to work with Microsoft at the time reinforced his argument that Apple owned a market from which they were excluded.

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“Fortnite” is the first free game offered on the Xbox cloud gaming service. Until now, gamers had to pay a monthly fee to access Microsoft’s game library, just like other streaming entertainment services. In a statement on its website announcing the partnership with Epic Games, Microsoft said the company plans to continue adding more free titles to its library of cloud-based games.

“We want to make gaming accessible to the 3 billion gamers around the world, and the cloud has a big role to play in that mission.” the statement is read. “We just want you to have more choice in both the games you play and how you choose to play them.”

Shannon Liao and Gene Park contributed to this report.

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