iPhones with Fortnite Installed Selling for $40,000 on Ebay

Last week, Google and Apple app stores removed Fortnite from their download options after makers of the game violated contract


Last week, Google and Apple app stores removed Fortnite from their download options after makers of the game violated contract terms. Some have seized this opportunity, and are selling their phones that already have the game installed for $40,000 on eBay. A legal battle looms on the horizon as Epic Games has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple and Google.

What is Fortnite?

Fortnite is a free-to-play online game that offers a battle royale style atmosphere for players. DigitalTrends describes the game, “Fortnite is the world’s most popular battle royale game, developed by Epic Games. In it, players drop into a map, either on their own or with a team, alongside 99 other players. After landing, it’s a mad dash to pick up as many weapons and items as possible, all while working your way toward the center of the map. Whoever is the last player standing wins the match.

Unlike traditional multiplayer games, Fortnite only has a single, large map for any particular season. At the early points in the game, you’re unlikely to encounter that many players, in fact. However, as the game progresses, there’s a ring that slowly closes toward a central point on the map. If you’re caught outside the ring, your character will die.

Fortnite is similar to games like PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds and Apex Legends in its format. However, it has one unique feature. In Fortnite, your character can build structures as you go. That allows you to set traps, build forts, and create cover during the game. Unlike other battle royale games, you’ll need to master shooting and building to be successful at Fortnite.”

Fortnite was released in 2017 by Epic Games, and quickly became both the bane of parents everywhere and the love of teenagers and kids. But appeal wasn’t limited to the younger set; many adults came to love the cartoonish, user-friendly game. Fortnite was a counter to games like PubG and ApexLegends which aimed at older audiences, and it’s broad appeal rocketed it to mega-status. In May, Fornite announced it had a staggering 350 million registered accounts, and users racked up over 3.3 billion hours played in April. 

Users can purchase micro-transactions for the game called, “V-bucks,” the name for the in-game currency. $1 USD is worth 100 in-game bucks. These purchases can be made through various platforms, but on apps downloaded from Google and Apple, the purchases are supposed to be made through the app stores per agreements signed by the developers on launch. Epic Games has chafed at this third-party system.

Why is it so popular?

Players will tout the game’s fun graphics and ease of game-play, but also tell you that it’s a game that requires skill to master. In a world where a pandemic has disrupted social interactions outside of the home, the ability to gather virtually with friends and play a game for free that can distract you from woes has even greater appeal than before. Fortnite is also available on almost every gaming platform possible, and allows for cross-platform play. The age-old Playstation vs. XBox or PC vs. console rivalries can be put on hold to allow friends to play together no matter where their brand loyalties lie. 

So what happened with the app stores?

Part of the agreement that game developers sign when their games are released in app stores requires that users who can purchase in-game options have to do so through the app store, giving Apple and Google a cut of the purchase profits. However, Epic Games recently offered users a way to purchase in-game micro-transactions directly through the company, and at an appealing 30% discount. As this violated the agreement with Google and Apple, they removed Fortnite from their phone app stores. It did not, however, remove the game from phones which already had it installed.

Some users saw this as a chance to make some money. Although most phones with the game installed seem to be listed for $300 or $400, there are several eBay listings in the thousands and tens of thousands. One remarkable listing has an iPhone Pro 11 with Fortnite installed listed for a mind-boggling $40,000.

Will someone really pay that much?

It seems unlikely that even those desperate for the game will pay that much money, but the gaming world can sometimes be a little wild. For instance, in game CSGO, users can pay tens of thousands of dollars simply to change the way their in-game gear looks, purchasing what are called, “skins,” to customize items. And in July, one anonymous bidder at an auction paid $114,000 for an unopened copy of a 1985 Super Mario Brothers game. 

The future of the legal battle

Google and Apple have said that the fix is easy and all Epic Games has to do to reinstate the game to their stores is remove the work-around for purchases. If Epic Games restored the third-party app store purchases, they would re-launch the game in stores. However, Epic Games has doubled down on what they consider a monopoly. Launching a social media campaign, #FreeFortnite, the company has seized on the enthusiasm of fans to fight the larger companies. Apple has refused to respond to the fan outrage and baiting by Epic in kind and countered coolly with a statement that read in part, “We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the [App] Store. The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers.” 

The future of mobile gaming

While it’s unclear whether or not people will actually be purchasing the pre-installed phones for tens of thousands of dollars through eBay, the legal battle between Apple, Google, and Epic may determine the future of app store control and third-party purchases. If Epic can plead their case adequately, games may no longer be required to funnel in-game purchases through app stores which opens up a lot of direct purchase options and could benefit players by lowering the cost of in-game purchases. However, tech mega-giants Apple and Google could simply refuse to work with companies who don’t work through the third-party purchase system, and it will cause difficulties for players looking for an easy-to-find and easy-to-download game on a mobile device. The stage is set for an, “epic,” legal battle this fall, and the outcome may have long-reaching repercussions. For their part, EpicCEO Tim Sweeney said on Twitter, “If we don’t fight for our rights where we stand, we’ll eventually run out of places to retreat to, and by then we’ll be too weak and divided to win. This is why developers need to fight the store monopolies HERE and NOW!”