What is Apple's 1984 advert, and what does it have to do with Fortnite?

A screen from Apple's 1984 advert (Image credit: Futura)

Epic Games has gone to war with Apple and Google over its ever popular battle royale game Fortnite

After encouraging a new payment system that circumnavigated the tech giant's own digital storefronts (and the 30% cut each takes in the process), Epic Games' free-to-play phenomenon was removed from both Apple and Google's app stores

While Google has been perhaps more flexible with its policies in the past, Apple has undoubtedly born the brunt of Epic's defiance. 

In a post from Fortnite's official Twitter account, a black and white video compares Apple's totalitarian control of its platform to Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984. That's something Apple itself did prior to the launch of the Macintosh computer in, you guessed it, 1984. 

You can see the original Apple advert below:

The new short titled "Nineteen-Eighty Fortnite" recreates the iconic advert with one of the game's characters, before ending with a statement that reads: “Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming “1984"". 

You can catch both videos side by side courtesy of the tweet below, and it has clearly been easy for Epic to manipulate for use in the current context. There's even a heroine with a large sledgehammer, which Fortnite's version modifies to a Unicorn pickaxe, naturally. 

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While many will see Apple as the buttoned-up, corporate company that makes trillions of dollars, this commercial is a timely reminder that the organisation was once a scrappy startup that wanted to help PC users break away from IBM's stranglehold on the then fledgling industry.

The final part of Apple's video suggests that their Macintosh computer's launch would ensure that real-world 1984 doesn't play out as it does in Orwell's work, which is famed for its depiction of a culture of subservient humans working under the yoke of manipulative politicians and businesses. 

It's arguably a tad dramatic, yes, but Epic's lawsuit against the California-based tech giant references this "breathtaking advertisement" in page one of its lawsuit again Apple. It then quotes Apple founder Steve Jobs himself: 

"It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money... will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire Information Age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?" 

That Epic can stand up to two of the world's biggest companies, as well as repurpose Apple's own rhetoric against them, is a sign both of Epic's growth since the meteoric rise of Fortnite, and in the seemingly constant controversy Apple finds itself in due to its archaic App Store policies - many of which remain unchanged since the platform's launch in 2008. 

Many developers are told that they need to bend to Apple's policies on 30% cuts and not circumventing App Store payments, while many are able to do just that (Amazon, for example). Then there's Microsoft, who's own Game Pass streaming app was rejected by Apple, because the company can't vet and rate every title on the service. 

Since Fortnite's launch, Epic has sought to disrupt the games industry with its own storefront that offers exclusive content and a higher share of profits for developers, allowing those same developers to keep more of their earnings through timed-exclusivity deals. 

Couple that with the licensing of its Unreal Engine tech, and make no mistake; this is Goliath vs Goliath, and if Fortnite fans stop buying iPhones and iPads, it could be a bigger blow for Apple than you might expect. 

It's also clear that the video has been in development for some time, meaning Epic had been preparing for this eventuality, something Apple likely didn't see coming. 

It's rare to see two huge corporations both come out swinging in terms of verbiage and action, but it'll be fascinating to see play out.

Lloyd Coombes
Freelancer & Podcaster

Lloyd Coombes is a freelance tech and fitness writer for TechRadar. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as Computer and Gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and Live Science. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.