UPDATE 9am: Google has also removed Fortnite from Google Play, although the game is still available on Android via other storefronts. In response, Epic Games has now filed a lawsuit against Google too.
"The open Android ecosystem lets developers distribute apps through multiple app stores," a Google spokesperson told The Verge. "For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users. While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.
UPDATE 9.35pm: Epic has made its Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite short film, which debuted in-game earlier tonight, available for viewing online. Riffing on Apple's classic "1984" commercial, it concludes with Epic, now apparently casting itself in the role of fearless freedom fighter, declaring it has "defied the App Store Monopoly".
This comes after it broke App Store guidelines regarding in-app purchases earlier today.
"In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices," the developer continued, "Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984'". Epic has also launched the #FreeFortnite hashtag, which its team members began sharing on Twitter following the film's release.
UPDATE 8.30pm: Following Epic Games' decision to include a direct in-game payment option in the iOS and Android versions of Fortnite in order to circumvent Apple and Google's official in-app purchase mechanisms, Apple has pulled the game from its App Store.
It's perhaps not a huge surprise to see Apple respond so quickly and decisively; Epic's move directly contravenes App Store guidelines, which state (thanks Mac Rumours) that developers wishing to unlock features or functionality within their apps must must use in-app purchases. "Subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version", are listed by way of example.
It appears Apple's move didn't come as much of a surprise to Epic either. Within moments of the news breaking, Epic announced it had filed legal papers against Apple. And with illuminating lines such as, "But for Apple's restrictions, would-be competing app distributors, such as Epic, could develop and offer iOS-compatible app stores, thereby providing consumers and developers choice beyond Apple's own App Store and injecting healthy competition into the market", they're well worth a read.
Fortnite Party Royale will premiere a new short: Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite. Join us at 4PM ET. pic.twitter.com/BWvndK3gDt— Fortnite (@FortniteGame) August 13, 2020
Additionally, Epic has announced it will be premiering a new short film, titled Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite, in Fortnite's Party Royale mode at 9pm tonight in the UK (4pm ET). Judging by the image accompanying Epic's announcement tweet, the short is a riff on Apple's famed "1984" commercial for the Apple Macintosh personal computer.
While we wait to see the next stage in Epic's carefully orchestrated gambit, Apple has released its own statement. "Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and designed to keep the store safe for our users," it told The Verge. "As a result their Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer who sells digital goods or services.
"Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem - including its tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines freely and we're glad they've built such a successful business on the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store."
ORIGINAL STORY 12.04pm: Epic Games has added a new "direct payment" option to Fortnite on iPhone and Android devices, aimed at cutting out the portion of proceeds Apple and Google take via their own official stores.
Epic has long railed against Apple and Google's 30 per cent cut, and previously launched Fortnite on Android via its own launcher to get around the issue.
The launch of a new, cheaper direct payment option in-game seems to be Epic's latest salvo in this ongoing battle. On both mobile platforms, £9.99 of in-game currency (1000 V-Bucks) will now cost £7.99 if you pick the option to pay Epic directly.
"Apple and Google collect an exorbitant 30 per cent fee on all payments," Epic said in a spicy FAQ published today. "If Apple and Google lower their fees on payments, Epic will pass along the savings to players.
"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, McDonalds, Uber, Lyft, and StubHub. We think all developers should be free to support direct payments in all apps.
"In operating Fortnite on open platforms and operating the Epic Games Store, Epic has processed over $1,600,000,000 of direct payments successfully, and uses industry trusted encryption and security measures to protect customer transactions."
All of this is good news for Fortnite players on PC and consoles, too. As part of a move Epic has termed "The Fortnite Mega Drop", it has reduced the prices for both V-Bucks and real-money offerings on PC, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Xbox.
This is a permanent reduction, and knocks down all prices by around 20 per cent. It means, on those platforms, 1000 V-Bucks now costs £6.49 instead of £7.99.
If you have purchased anything in the last 30 days (such as that naked Peely Summer Legends bundle) Epic will refund you the difference between what you paid then and what it costs now. This applies to anything bought in Fortnite from 14th July onward and will be automatically added to your account by the end of next Monday.
Oh, and there's a free pickaxe to collect if you log-in today as well.