Fortnite is back on iOS devices, but not in the App Store. Instead, it will be playable through the mobile Safari browser with GeForce Now, which begins closed beta testing of the remastered mobile version of Fortnite next week.
Fortnite has not been shown on the App Store since August 2020, when Apple removed it from the App Store. It came after the launch of Fortnite’s direct payment system that bypassed Apple’s own payment processing, and the 30 percent fee it charges. Epic has promoted its in-house payment system by offering Fortnite V-Bucks at a discount – but only if they are purchased directly.
This sparked a high-profile legal dispute between Epic and Apple that is still ongoing. Apple ranked first in the initial ruling, though Epic won one big point: the court declared that Apple could not prevent app developers from using their “procurement mechanisms” alongside Apple’s own. But the judge also ruled that the App Store contract between Epic and Apple was valid and enforceable, and that Apple was within its rights to terminate the contract because Epic had intentionally violated it — and when, after the ruling, Epic asked Apple to restore its developer account, Apple said No.
It seems that this situation will continue for a long time. Apple has said it will not allow Fortnite to return to the App Store until all appeals in the case have been exhausted, a process that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said could take up to five years. But the addition of the mobile version of Fortnite, available through GeForce Now, opens the door for fans of Epic and Fortnite — a crack, at least — by bypassing not just Apple’s payment system, but the entire App Store.
More importantly, this game is not just a regular Fortnite game that launches on your phone, but a “touch-friendly” version of the game developed by Nvidia and Epic. “While the GeForce Now library is best experienced on mobile with PC gaming with a gamepad, the introduction of touch controls designed by the GeForce Now team offers more options for players, starting with Fortnite,” Nvidia said.
“We’re just getting started. Games from the cloud to mobile devices are a great opportunity for publishers to put their games in the hands of more gamers with easy-to-touch versions of their games. PC games or game engines, such as Unreal Engine 4, that support Windows touch events can easily enable support for Mobile Touch on GeForce Now.”
Fortnite mobile’s initial closed beta testing on GeForce Now will begin next week, and will be open to everyone, although only a limited number of players will be accepted. You don’t need a GeForce Now account to sign up for the beta, but you will if you’re already logged in and want to play. Fortunately, a free or priority (paid) membership will do the trick.
It will be interesting to see how Apple will respond to this gambit. I suspect it will do nothing: Regardless of the legal situation, having to run Fortnite through GeForce Now is an extra layer of complications that will likely turn away players who aren’t overly tech-savvy. Fortnite is also still absent from the App Store, and as such is completely out of sight to a large portion of its potential audience. Committed Fortnite fans may be happy to see it playable on their iPhone again (assuming the beta goes well) but I don’t think it will change the big picture for Epic significantly.
I’ve reached out to Apple and Epic for comment, and will update if I receive a response.