Fortnite Returns to the iPhone via Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming

It’s free for anybody with an Xbox account.
Fortnite on iPhone Credit: Microsoft
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These days Apple and Epic Games are in something of a Cold War stage, so it’s still pretty safe to say that Fortnite won’t be coming back to the App Store anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean Epic doesn’t have another way to slip its flagship game onto the screens of fans’ iPhones.

The writing has been on the wall ever since Apple cracked the door slightly open to allow game streaming services nearly two years ago. Since Fortnite was available on at least some of these services already, its return to the iPhone through game streaming seemed inevitable.

While it’s taken a lot longer than many expected, Fortnite has finally returned to the iPhone and iPad. However, it’s also come from a direction nobody was expecting.

Everyone thought we’d see Fortnite show up as part of Nvidia’s GeForce NOW. Even though it was conspicuously absent from the iPhone version of the game service when it launched in November 2020, Nvidia launched a closed beta for it in January, suggesting a public release was just around the corner.

Unfortunately, four months later, Nvidia’s version of Fortnite remains in the limbo of its closed beta program, with no indication of when it will actually launch.

Enter Microsoft

While we have no idea what’s going on with Nvidia, it appears that Epic and Microsoft have just done an end-run and brought Fortnite to the iPhone and iPad as part of Xbox Cloud Gaming — and it’s free for anybody with an Xbox account.

It’s an even bigger surprise for Fortnite to arrive on the Xbox service since Epic Games had previously been adamant about keeping its games off that platform. During the Apple vs. Epic Games case, a deposition from Joe Kreiner, Epic’s vice president of business development, shared by The Verge, revealed that Epic saw Microsoft as a competitor and confirmed that it made a deliberate choice to keep Fortnite away from Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Instead, Epic chose Nvidia over Microsoft to host Fortnite in the cloud, likely because Nvidia agreed that 100 percent of the revenue from Fortnite would go back to Epic Games. In addition to being a competitor in the PC space, Microsoft requires all transactions to go through its payment platform, much like Apple does with its App Store.

Epic hasn’t shared any reasons for its sudden change of heart or even whether it came to any special agreement with Microsoft. However, the fact that Nvidia still hasn’t launched a touch-friendly version of Fortnite on GeForce NOW may have something to do with it.

Unsurprisingly, Epic’s CEO, Tim Sweeney, used his launch announcement to take a stab at Apple’s App Store policies, noting that there’s “no 30% Apple tax.”

Whatever Epic’s deal is with Microsoft, it doesn’t appear to be exclusive. Nvidia GeForce Now VP Phil Eisler told The Verge that his company is still working with Epic to “fully launch Fortnite with touch controls, streaming with GeForce performance.”

Fortnite also represents the first “Free-to-Play” title to come to Xbox Cloud Gaming, although Microsoft says it won’t be the last. iPhone and iPad gamers can play Fortnite by visiting in Safari and signing in with their Microsoft Account.

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