Epic says there’s an App Store payment lockout — but Apple just sees friction


Protect Your Access to the Internet

One of the Epic v. Apple trial’s big keywords is “cross-wallet play.”

a close up of a light

© Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

In Epic’s Fortnite, “cross-wallet” means you can buy in-game currency (known as V-Bucks) with real money on one device, then spend it on a different device. The latter platform doesn’t get a cut of your initial, non-virtual financial transaction, which is why Nintendo and Sony don’t support cross-wallet access on the Switch and PlayStation.


Load Error

Apple did support cross-wallet play before banning Fortnite last year — and on the trial’s second day, that fact became a serious pitfall for Epic. Apple continued a long cross-examination of Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, whose hours of testimony included a digression on whether Fortnite counts as a true metaverse or simply a big free-to-play game that has concerts. (Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers suggested, and Sweeney concurred, that “the most readily acceptable analogy” might be Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.)

Is the web a viable alternative or a clunky workaround?

Sweeney was followed by two witnesses from outside Epic: the founder of an iOS yoga app, followed by the product manager for Nvidia’s cloud gaming service. All argued that Apple’s tightly managed App Store forced customers to use clunky workarounds. Meanwhile, Apple argued that the workarounds weren’t necessarily worse — just different.

Fortnite was kicked off the App Store for adding its own V-Bucks purchasing system right inside the app, violating Apple’s restrictions on in-app payment processing. But as Apple’s lawyers pointed out today, Epic had another option for selling V-Bucks on iOS. The company just needed to sell them directly through its website, which users could visit through the iPhone or iPad Safari browser without Apple getting any kind of commission. When they booted up Fortnite on iOS, their V-Bucks would be waiting.

“Isn’t that a responsible way to deal with a young client base?”

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers found this argument compelling enough to follow up on. Why couldn’t iPhone users buy V-Bucks through Safari, she asked, before Fortnite’s ban in August? Epic CEO…