Microsoft is throwing its weight behind Epic Games in the fight against Apple — and bringing Fortnite back to iOS in the process. The company announced Thursday that it had partnered with Epic to make Fortnite available on Apple devices through its game streaming service, Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Fortnite is back, but you still won’t be able to just waltz into the App Store and ask for it. To play, you’ll need to hop onto Apple’s Safari browser and visit Xbox.com/play, a process that’s less straightforward but only takes a few minutes to set up, if that. You won’t need a paid subscription to start playing, though you will need to log in to a Microsoft account and link that up with your Epic Games account.
Technically, the new Microsoft workaround is the second loophole that brings the hit shooter back to iPhones and iPads. In January, Nvidia announced that Fortnite would be playable through the chip-maker’s own game streaming service GeForce Now, though Microsoft’s experience is likely to be more appealing.
Epic kicked off a battle against Apple back in 2020 when the Fortnite-maker tried to skirt the company’s 30% cut of in-app purchases, getting the hit game kicked off of iOS in the process. Epic sued Apple, accusing the iPhone maker of violating antitrust laws. While a California court didn’t agree, it did require Apple to give developers more freedom to point customers toward payment processes beyond the company’s infamous walled garden.
Microsoft and Apple once had a well-branded rivalry, but competitive tensions between the two companies had cooled in recent years. Apparently, between a spicy Apple commercial last year featuring the “I’m a PC” actor John Hodgman and Microsoft going out of its way to pair up with Epic, one of Apple’s most outspoken critics, that rivalry looks to be back on.
Microsoft is betting big on cloud gaming so it makes sense for the company to partner with Epic, one of the rare gaming companies that has seamless cross-platform online multiplayer totally dialed in at this point. It’s also a useful defensive position against Apple on an issue that’s already created a rift between the companies.
Apparently, Apple foiled Microsoft’s plans to launch an expansive all-in-one Xbox Cloud Gaming iOS app by requiring individual games to be downloaded separately — a restriction that explains why Microsoft is pointing people to the browser for Fortnite instead of the App Store.
Microsoft says that Fortnite will be its first popular free-to-play cloud gaming title, but not its last. “At Xbox we want to make gaming accessible to the 3 billion players around the world, and cloud has an important role in that mission,” Xbox Cloud Gaming Head of Product Catherine Gluckstein said. “Quite simply we want you to have more choice in both the games you play and the way you choose to play them.”