Ever since Epic Games started its battle with Apple and Google over their app store fees, playing Fortnite on your mobile device has been more difficult, if not impossible. You could try it on iPhone via Nvidia’s GeForce Now but only if you got into a closed beta. But now, Epic Games has decided to partner with the company it spurned — Microsoft — and is putting Fortnite on pretty much anything with a screen for free via the Xbox Cloud Gaming service.
Fortnite is the first free-to-play title to join Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Microsoft says that all you’ll need to play (in the 26 countries where it’s available) is a Microsoft account and internet access for your iOS, iPadOS, Android, or Windows device. It works through your web browser (click here to start playing now), with touch controls as well as support for gamepads, and yes, you can even bring the game to Valve’s Steam Deck portable.
Microsoft says that for now, it will evaluate feedback, but it plans to bring more free-to-play titles to the cloud. For Epic, it gets its game back in front of users who were otherwise barred because they couldn’t install the game or who just want to play when they’re away from their main gaming machine — and unlike GeForce Now’s closed beta, the web version is on Android, not just iOS. (There was an Android app.) And for Microsoft, it can bring more people into the Xbox ecosystem, make them aware of its cloud gaming capabilities, and maybe sell a Game Pass subscription or two.
More titles are launching mobile versions these days, but if you can play a full console- or PC-level title on your phone, tablet, or underpowered laptop for free, then it could do a lot to change gamers’ preferences. Part of the pitch isn’t just for gamers, either — Microsoft’s blog post points out how many people are trying out cloud gaming and that over 150 titles already include touch control support for any developers trying to reach new audiences.
It’s a little surprising to see Epic partner with Microsoft because we learned during the Epic v. Apple trial that the companies had long been in talks and that Epic deliberately decided not to bring Fortnite to the Xbox Cloud. “We viewed Microsoft’s efforts with xCloud to be competitive with our PC offerings,” admitted Joe Kreiner, Epic’s vice president of business development.
Epic doesn’t seem to be taking a cloud version of Fortnite away from Nvidia just to give it to Microsoft, by the way. Here’s a statement from Nvidia GeForce Now boss Phil Eisler: “We believe all games should be playable on any device and see today’s announcement as an exciting one for all gamers! We are working with Epic to fully launch Fortnite with touch controls, streaming with GeForce performance, on GeForce NOW. Stay tuned for updates coming soon.”