Things are moving fast in the Epic Games vs Apple battle. After Fortnite was pulled from the App Store for breaking Apple’s rules — sneaking in a direct payment method to get around the in-app purchase system — Epic almost immediately filed a lawsuit against Apple. Now the game developer says that Apple is terminating its account.
Update: Reported by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple has officially responded stating that they “very much want” Epic to remain an Apple developer but won’t make an exception for the company. Apple highlights Epic can fix the problem by submitting a new update that takes out the direct payment option.
The App Store is designed to be a safe and trusted place for users and a great business opportunity for all developers. Epic has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing into a multibillion dollar business that reaches million of iOS customers around the world. We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. The problem that Epic has created for itself is one that can be easily remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.
Epic shared the update on Twitter today, calling the removal of its account a “retaliation” for filing a lawsuit against Apple. The developer says that Apple is planning to terminate all of its accounts and cut it off from iOS and Mac development tools on August 28.
Epic has asked the Northern District California court where it filed its lawsuit last week to block Apple from terminating its developer account in a new filing. But considering how Apple expressed that it was willing to work with Epic Games to get Fortnite back on the App Store and then Epic responded with a lawsuit and a calculated protest, that may not be very likely with Apple having the higher legal ground here.
Here’s the opening of Epic’s latest filing after hearing that Apple is set to terminate its account:
Just over two weeks ago, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook was asked during a Congressional hearing whether Apple has “ever retaliated against or disadvantaged a developer who went public about their frustrations with the App Store”. Mr. Cook testified, “We do not retaliate or bully people. It’s strongly against our company culture.”1 But Apple has done just that. When Epic gave users of its app Fortnite a choice of how they wanted to make purchases, Apple retaliated by removing Fortnite from its App Store. Then when Epic sued Apple to break its monopoly on app stores and in-app payments, Apple retaliated ferociously. It told Epic that by August 28, Apple will cut off Epic’s access to all development tools necessary to create software for Apple’s platforms—including for the Unreal Engine Epic offers to third-party developers, which Apple has never claimed violated any Apple policy. Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas.
Epic claims that beyond harming “millions of innocent consumers worldwide” who play Fortnite and its other games, Apple terminating its developer account is a threat to its Unreal Engine.
In addition, Apple’s retaliation represents an existential threat to Epic’s Unreal Engine. OS providers like Apple routinely make certain software and developer tools available to software developers, for free or a small fee, to enable the development of software that will run on the OS. Apple intends to deny Epic access to that widely available material. Without that access, Epic cannot develop future versions of the Unreal Engine for use on iOS or macOS.
When Apple pulled Fortnite over the direct payment method last week, an official statement from the company ended with “We will make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return Fortnite to the App Store.”
Shortly after, Epic posted this protest video based on Apple’s famous 1984 commercial, slamming Apple for running an “App Store Monopoly” and “blocking Fortnite from a billion devices.” And just over an hour after Fortnite was removed from the App Store, Epic Games filed a lawsuit.
Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered. Nor is Epic seeking favorable treatment for itself, a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.
In a 9to5Mac poll, 51% of readers agreed with Apple pulling Fortnite. Another 35% agreed with Apple but felt that there should be App Store rule changes. Just 13% felt Apple shouldn’t have pulled the app.
With the battle between the two taking another big step, what do you think? Does it make sense for Apple to terminate Epic’s developer account? Or does it feel like retaliation to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
My colleague Ben Lovejoy went over four possible outcomes we could see from the lawsuit. Even though today’s news marks a big move from Apple, it could be a while before we see a ruling in the case, unless Epic chooses to back down.
Right or wrong, Epic Games has been given a lot of credit for its meticulously planned approach to this battle and fine details like Tim Cook’s glasses showing up on the “bad Apple boss” in its protest video.
While Apple giving an advance notice about terminating Epic’s accounts might sound a bit strange, it could give Epic time reconsider the lawsuit and may also have an intentionally hidden subtext based on the August 14 date the app was removed to the August 28 date for the dev account termination.
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