Hello and welcome to another Wednesday, fellow mobile gamers! I have rediscovered FrenchGuys’ Twenty for roughly the thirtieth time in my life and am knee-deep in swiping numbers again. I’ve been playing a lot of the “Thirty” mode lately, and the game’s frenetic pace occupies so much of my immediate energy that I don’t have time for thoughts. Ideal!

Anyway, here’s what’s been happening in mobile games since we last spoke.

Apple’s New App Store Commissions Are Rotten to the Core

Apple, Google, and the other “Big Guys” take up so much air in the room that it always feels like they’re the center of attention. In this case, they are, and they should be. Following December’s rulings against Google, which stated that the Play Store app was an illegal monopoly, and antitrust cases that resulted in Google paying a $700 million fee, Epic and their myriad beefs with mobile companies are back in the news. This month, it’s Apple: Fortnite and other Epic games are coming back to iOS this year after Apple removed them and banned the publisher for adding in-app third-party payments to their apps.

Apple’s choice is not out of the kindness of their heart, however. The EU will soon be enforcing the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to ease some of the power digital “gatekeepers”—companies that have strong economic power, intermediation power, and durable market position—have in their industries. Apple fits the EU’s definition of such a gatekeeper, and thus will have to make some changes to their operations to be in compliance with the DMA. Those changes, which include allowing third-party app stores and alternative payment options, are enough to bring Epic and Fortnite back to iOS devices, though only within regions covered by the DMA.

Remember what I said about this not being out of the kindness of Apple’s heart? Well, the same day it was revealed that Epic Games would be returning to iOS, Apple introduced a new series of rules that comply with the DMA while still ensuring they don’t have to tighten their belts too much. Apple will lower its commission on in-app purchases from 30% to 10% or 17%, depending on the publisher. But publishers that want to use Apple Pay, a convenient option for customers, will have an additional 3% fee on top of that commission. In addition, any publisher that wants to take advantage of these new terms must also pay a “core technology fee,” similar to Unity’s much-maligned Runtime Fee from last year. The fee will be €0.50 for each first annual install per year over one million downloads made through the App Store and/or alternative marketplace. In simpler terms, if you have one million or fewer downloads, no big deal. But for every download over one million, the publisher will have to pay €0.50 per first annual install. Install, not purchase—so if you delete Fortnite in a fit of rage, then re-install it a year later, Epic will be charged again. Epic can no doubt weather this fee, but plenty of other developers may not be able to. These fees apply even on free apps.

Apple estimates that “less than 1%” of developers will ever have to pay this fee. But “less than 1%” of apps on the App Store is still a huge number. And because the “core technology fee” is not capped and there’s no way to accurately predict how much it will be, it might still be in a publisher’s best interest to play it safe and stick with the 30% commission that caused all these issues in the first place, which they can still choose to do.

Notably, Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney referred to Apple’s rules as “hot garbage,” while Spotify called them “extortion” and “a total farce.” They might be right on this one, folks.

January 2024 Marked by Cancellations and Closures

It’s the end of an era. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is closing down and will cease operation in April. KKH is not a good game, but I have a bit of a soft spot for it after hearing a bunch of big games folks in 2014 talk shit about it purely because it’s ~ for the girlies ~. Back when I wrote about games under a pseudonym that has since been erased from the internet, an editor asked me to “write something controversial,” so I wrote that KKH is a fun game, actually. They wanted controversy, and they got it, in the form of dozens and dozens of angry Facebook users screeching that such a terrible take was ruining games journalism or whatever. I haven’t touched the game in years because a) it’s not very good, despite being kinda fun and b) I have moved on to dating sims and absolutely bonkers mobile fare, but I still have a soft spot for it because I’m something of a contrarian by nature. RIP to a… well, not a real one, but a mediocre one that I have some silly fond memories of.

Love Live! School Idol Festival 2 Miracle Live, a word salad of a name if I’ve ever heard one, will launch worldwide in February, and then shut down in May. The game has been available in Japan since April 2023, but fans of the series have been slow to take advantage of the monetization strategies and the international version was delayed. Now the game will launch and fold in less than six months, as the world’s saddest corporate tweet demonstrates:

PlatinumGames is making World of Demons, an Apple Arcade exclusive, unplayable after February 1. No reason has been given for the game’s removal.

Square Enix and Applibot are closing down Nier Re[in]carnation, the third installment in the Nier series, in April 2024. Nier Re[in]carnation is just one of the many Square Enix games sunsetting this year, alongside Fullmetal Alchemist Mobile.

Cookie Run developer Devsisters has laid off a number of staff, including at their US office, leading to speculation that the US office would be closed. However, a statement from the company said that Devsisters USA would remain open.

And lastly, Avatar: Reckoning, a mobile-exclusive MMO set in the world of James Cameron’s Avatar franchise, has been cancelled. The game was well-received on its soft launch and the reasons for the cancellation, like most of the others in this depressing section, are unclear.

An Update on My Stories

I gotta be real—all that Fusebox stuff really turned me off, and the latest season of Love Island: The Game was so full of unmemorable characters that I didn’t finish it. But lucky for me, ITV Studios and Fusebox have extended their partnership for three more years, meaning more Love Island: The Game content in the future. Yaaaay?

I’ve been slowly accruing gems in LoveLink and therefore have no news to share on that front, but given that my love affair with Love Island may finally be coming to an end, perhaps its time to dip back into Choices?

Ah, shit, looks like Pixelberry just laid off an unknown number of employees, despite constantly hiring for a contract writer according to my numerous LinkedIn notifications. I’m sure this will be fine and not impact the game’s quality in any way. Right? Right?

In other news…

Roblox has launched a Creator Store for a variety of assets that can be used create content on the platform. This store replaces the existing Creator Store, which has been restructured over the past two years to improve “safety, utility, and opportunities for earnings.”

Homa, the studio behind Craft Island along with Ducky Games, has won its defense in a case brought by Voodoo. Voodoo’s case accused Homa’s game of being too similar to its own game Lumbercraft. A bit ironic, considering Voodoo is the studio behind Hole.io, which clearly rips off Donut County in its mechanics and Portal in its app store icon.

In a stunning reminder that modern phones are powerful as hell, Death Stranding Director’s Cut will be available on iOS starting January 30.

Run Legends, a fitness-based game that encourages players to run or walk to complete missions, launched this week. Unlike many fitness apps, Run Legends can be played with friends.

Tommy Hilfinger is releasing an AI-powered mobile fashion game called FashionVerse with Tilting Point. My main association with Tommy Hilfinger is that my grandpa owned some stock in the company for a while, and we all got packs of their socks for Christmas for a while. I hope this game contains lots of socks to model. I’m just kidding, I’m not playing some weird AI-powered mobile fashion game. Not even I’m that depraved.

Yes, Your Grace is coming to Android and iOS February 1st. This looks like exactly my type of non-trashy mobile game. After playing Reigns Her Majesty like 85 times, it’ll be nice to have a new monarchy simulator right there on my phone. That is my flavor of depraved.