Even as the Epic Games case against Apple is waiting for its day in court, it looks like Fortnite might potentially make a return to the iPhone and iPad via the back door as more game streaming services accept Apple ‘s criteria for game streaming services.
For those who may have skipped it, Epic Games went to Apple’s mattresses back in August when it snuck its own in-app purchase process into Fortnite in a blatant and blatant breach of Apple’s App Store laws.
Of course, Apple gave the boot to Fortnite, and Epic Games had a complaint ready to go within an hour. Since then, the rivalry between the two tech giants has only become more heated, with Apple upping the stakes by putting an end to Epic’s developer account, while Epic has tried to get the courts to force Apple to let Fortnite back on the App Store with its policy-free in-app purchase scheme intact.
When the dust on all this settled, Fortnite stayed out of the App Store, as the courts inevitably declined to hand over Epic a victory before the actual lawsuit had even begun, and the actual case to find out all this will go to the courts sometime next year. Although Epic reports that the ban has cost 60 percent of its Fortnite customers, it seems that this could be about to change with the introduction of another game streaming service on the iOS platform.
Apple, Game Streaming
To be sure, Apple has not relaxed its position on Epic Games, but it has only slightly opened the door to allowing streaming gaming services on the iOS platform — which was previously explicitly forbidden by the terms of the App Store.
While most of the major game streaming service developers were less than pleased by Apple’s changes, which would still require each game to be published as a separate app on the App Store, it turns out that Apple also found out another way in which developers might fully circumvent the App Store—”open internet and web browser apps.
Technically speaking, of course, this was always an option — after all, Apple can’t really regulate what’s available through the Safari browser — but it seems that simply spelling it out in its revamped App Store guidelines was enough to give developers the motivation they needed to start following this route instead.
Ironically, the first one to step up to the challenge and take advantage of this wasn’t Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass or Google’s Stadia, but rather Amazon’s brand-new Luna gaming service, and best of all Luna ‘s engineers blazed a new path by actually getting Apple’s Safari WebKit team to assist with the process, adding an extra assurance that this was an approach that Apple was really 100 p.
So it wasn’t long after Microsoft revealed its own plans to bring Xbox Game Pass to iOS as a “direct, browser-based solution” sometime next year, after the more conventional app-based version failed to meet Apple ‘s requirements. Although Microsoft has yet to say anything official on the matter, its Xbox header, Phil Spencer, has publicly promised to do whatever it takes to get the company’s gaming streaming service on iOS devices, and recently told an internal All-Hands meeting that Microsoft will be working on a browser-based solution next year.
Nvidia Is Entering the Squad
With Amazon already leading the way, and Microsoft potentially not far behind, it looks like Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service will be the next to adopt the “open internet” as a means to get its footprint on iOS devices.
To be sure, Nvidia actually announced its plans back in August, although at the time the target was mainly to hit Google’s Chromebooks, which don’t really support any kind of native app store at all (Google announced earlier this year that what’s going on for Chromebooks apps will be fully wiped out by 2022). However, the company explicitly saw this as the first step towards a wider target of “in the future, all relevant connected devices” like PCs, smartphones and tablets.
Although GeForce Now isn’t capable of streaming to the iOS edition of Google Chrome, since it doesn’t use the same browser engine on iOS, Nvidia is planning to stream to any “WebRTC compliant browser,” which would include Safari on iOS, and it looks like it could finally be ready to put those plans in motion, even beating Microsoft’s Safari-compliant version of GeForce Now in time.
The news comes from the BBC, whose sources say that Nvidia already has a working version of GeForce Now for mobile Safari, and while a formal announcement has not been made, those familiar with Nvidia ‘s plans indicate that it is planned to do so “before the winter holidays.”
Fortnite Sneaking Back In
While GeForce Now coming to iOS will be a big deal on its own, what makes this news especially fascinating is that Fortnite is available on that specific streaming platform, which means that the chances are pretty good that Fortnite players will once again have access to the game on their iPhones and iPads.
While the BBC states that it’s entirely possible that Fortnite might be omitted from the list of games available in the Safari-based edition of GeForce Now, if this were to happen, it’s pretty doubtful that it would be at Apple ‘s request, because the iPhone manufacturer has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to browser-based content, and actually does a pretty big deal about the open web being held up.
Furthermore, Apple has consistently said that it would welcome Fortnite back to the Open Arms App Store if Epic Games actually eliminated its own in-app purchase scheme and returned to comply with the App Store’s rules. The fact that Epic declined to do so leaves the ball squarely in his hand, which is a significant part of the reason why the judge in the case was not sympathetic to Epic ‘s appeal, finding the claimed injury of the game developer an issue of its own making.
In the case of GeForce Now, or other gaming streaming services, Apple does not have any rules requiring in-app transactions to move through its system, nor does it really have any way to implement this, so there is no reason to believe that Epic will not be absolutely free to use its own purchasing system in the Fortnite Mobile Safari version, subject, of course, to whatever rules Nvidia has laid down for it.