Epic premiered a new short video in Fortnite on Thursday called “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite.” The short, a parody of an Apple ad from 1984, was played at the big screen on the Party Royale island and later released on YouTube (seen above), but it’s the timing of the short that’s most interesting.
Much like the original Apple ad, the Fortnite short is about a dystopian society that is ruled by a monolithic totalitarian government that controls everything about its population, forcing them into total conformity. This leads to a population that’s stripped of individuality, marching in sync, dressing identically and all staring transfixed at a giant screen where a man with an apple-shaped head reminds them of the importance of their conformity.
“Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the platform unification directives,” the giant talking head says. “For years they have given us their songs, their labor, their dreams. In exchange, we have taken our tribute, our profits, our control. This power is ours and ours alone, we shall prevail.”
Finally, we see a lone character in color, the Bright Bomber — one of Fortnite’s most iconic skins. She runs into the room and hurls a giant hammer at the screen, cracking it and destroying the screen with the giant face.
The short certainly has somethings in common with George Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name, including the idea of a uniformed and homogenized population controlled by a totalitarian government. But the more striking similarity is to a 1984 television commercial that teased Apple’s first Macintosh computers.
Not coincidentally, Apple and Epic Games, the developer and publisher of Fortnite, have spent the day leading up to the short’s debut in a heated feud, culminating in an official complaint filed in the state of California by Epic Games against Apple.
The feud began, at least in the small scale, when Epic Games added an option to the iOS version of Fortnite for players to purchase V-Bucks — Fortnite’s in-game currency — directly through Epic, rather than through Apple’s App Store.
According to Apple’s current policy, most apps — but especially games — must allow in-app payments to be handled through Apple. Apple explains this as a security measure, but Apple also takes 30% of the revenue from these apps or in-app purchases. This specific policy is what Epic seems to be circumventing with this new addition to Fortnite.
A few hours after Epic’s move to circumvent Apple’s rules, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store. Epic then fired back with the announcement of this short and the revelation that it had filed an official legal complaint against Apple — a possible first step in a lawsuit.
In the first words of the complaint, Epic and its legal team make reference to the year 1984, the first Macintosh computer, and, of course, the infamous Super Bowl ad.
“In 1984, the fledgling Apple computer company released the Macintosh — the first mass-market, consumer-friendly home computer,” the complaint reads. “The product launch was announced with a breathtaking advertisement evoking George Orwell’s 1984 that cast Apple as a beneficial, revolutionary force breaking IBM’s monopoly over the computing technology market.”
The complaint also quotes Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs’ introduction of the commercial which reads, “it appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money … Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?”
Now with this new “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite” in-game short, Epic has cast itself as the Apple of a new age, taking on tech’s biggest company.
The complaint continues, “Fast forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear.”
The complaint then moves into the heart of its claim: that Apple uses “anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices in markets for the distribution of software applications to users of mobile computing devices like smartphones tablets, and the processing of consumers’ payments for digital content used within iOS mobile apps.”
It’s worth noting that while this is Apple’s general policy, it already allows certain apps and publishers, such as Amazon, to avoid the in-app-purchase “tax” that other developers are subject to.
Epic’s complaint then goes on to describe Apple’s policies as “anti-competitive,” outlining the specific laws that Apple violates, both in California and in the context of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The complaint concludes with a request that the court issue an injunction prohibiting Apple’s ability to continue any of these policies with regard to the App Store.
As for Epic’s in-game video, it ends exactly like the original Apple ad, but with one key addition. A brief message:
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming “1984.”
The video concludes with a black screen and the hashtag: #FreeFortnite.