iPhone could get Fortnite back — but there’s a big catch

Fortnite iPhone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you’re a Fortnite devotee still lamenting the loss of your favorite game from iPhone and iPad earlier this year, then you’ll be pleased to hear that it may be about to return. Though probably not in the way you imagined.

The court case between Fortnite creators Epic Games and Apple isn’t going to be resolved any time soon — indeed, it’s not even expected to begin until May 2021 — but that might not matter. According to the BBC, Nvidia’s GeForce Now streaming service is coming to iOS and will bring Fortnite with it. 

Anybody following Apple’s difficult relationship with game streaming services will know that this isn’t going to be as simple as just tapping the Fortnite icon on your iPhone’s home screen. Apple famously updated its terms and conditions to insist that each streaming platform would require a shell app for any game installed, which makes the simplicity of something like Microsoft’s Game Pass a bit more complex.

For GeForce Now, apparently, Nvidia’s solution is to allow it to run via the Safari browser. That may sound like a hacky workaround, but it is actually condoned by Apple's own words, with the company telling The Verge back in August that “developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.”

Fiddly? Certainly. But will it provide a good in-game experience? That’s a more difficult question to answer: on one hand, GeForce Now’s servers are considerably more powerful than even the mighty iPhone 12, which means it’ll likely look better than ever. On the other, the nature of streaming means added latency will be a factor, and that could be further exacerbated by being stuck in Safari rather than a native, optimized app.

The good news is that it won’t cost players anything to find out how it runs. Fortnite on PC is free to play, just as it is on other platforms, which means it can appear in people’s GeForce Now library without extra cost. And while GeForce Now does have a paid $5-per-month tier with optional ray tracing and faster access, anyone can play for limited time periods without paying a cent.

All the same, it’s a slightly ludicrous situation to be in, especially given Fortnite’s proven popularity on iOS. Court filings indicate that, before the ban, the game had 116 million users on iOS – 73 million of which only played on mobile. Between them, they had clocked up a mammoth 2.86 billion hours’ worth of gameplay.  

But that’s where we’ve ended up after Epic Games tried to use those impressive stats as leverage to escape from Apple’s punishing 30% cut of all microtransactions. Rather than attempting to negotiate behind the scenes, Epic instead put an in-app purchase option with lower prices for players without Apple getting a cut. That was enough for Apple to ban one of its most popular apps leaving millions of players disappointed. 

It could be years before the situation is resolved by the courts in Apple or Epic’s favor. So for now, short of playing on a different platform, this is iPhone owners’ best shot at getting their Fortnite fix — unwieldy as it demonstrably is. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.