Apple Is Portrayed as the Evil Empire in 1984 Ad Parody From Fortnite

Epic Games makes a statement on tech giant’s fees

Still from Epic Games ad
Epic Games casts itself as the hero in its battle with Apple. Epic Games

Just about any advertising professional or student ends up learning about Apple’s iconic 1984 ad. The TBWA\Chiat\Day-created, Ridley Scott-directed classic played on the ominous theme of George Orwell’s novel. The spot tweaked the establishment’s nose when it first ran, painting the tech industry as monolithic, scary and cold. 

Fast forward to 2020, and it seems that the Silicon Valley shoe is on the other foot, courtesy of Epic Games, the creator of the wildly-popular Fortnite game. The gaming brand took Apple’s original ad and created a fast-paced, shot-for-shot replica called “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite.”

Replacing the original Orwellian character on the screen is an apple-headed avatar. The female hero in the 1984 Apple ad threw a large hammer. In this version, she throws a rainbow-colored unicorn.

It’s a decidedly public battle that directs people to a website that explains the reasoning for the ad: Apple’s collection of 30% of in-app game purchases on iOS. With a decidedly populist tone, the goal is to call out the tech behemoth’s monopoly and its actions against Epic Games.

Apple banned Fortnite from the App Store on Thursday after Epic Games began offering a discount that incentivized hundreds of millions of players to pay it directly for in-game cash and items rather than through in-app methods, where Apple takes its cut.

In addition to the cheeky ad, the game maker is filing a lawsuit accusing the tech giant of anti-competitive behavior for the policy, which requires developers to use Apple’s payment systems. The brazen move comes as Apple has already been facing antitrust scrutiny over its App Store policies in Europe.

“Rather than tolerate this healthy competition and compete on the merits of its offering, Apple responded by removing Fortnite from sale on the App Store,” lawyers for Epic Games wrote in its legal filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. “Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100% monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market.”

An Apple spokesperson said the new app feature had not been approved or reviewed by Apple’s staffers and rolled out with the “express intent of violating the App Store guidelines.”

“Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have benefited from the App Store ecosystem,” the company said in a statement. “The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.”

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.
@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.