The dispute between Apple and Epic Games has been going on for about two weeks now, but this is probably just the beginning of a long legal fight. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who is hearing the case, said today that she is “inclined” not to require Apple to allow Fortnite on the App Store, but also that the decision to terminate Epic’s developer account may be reversed.
On August 13, Fortnite was updated to include Epic’s own payment system that let players buy in-game items for lower prices. Epic claimed that Apple’s In-App Purchases system forces developers to charge users higher amounts, as the company takes a 30% commission on each sale.
As Apple explicitly forbids developers from offering any paid content within apps by evading its In-App Purchases system, Fortnite was then banned from the iOS App Store. Epic Games started a public campaign inviting Fortnite players to join the company against the Apple decision, which resulted in Apple terminating Epic’s developer account.
Epic Games sued Apple for removing Fortnite from the App Store and also for suspending its developer account, claiming that the App Store rules are anti-competitive. In response, Apple said that Epic was seeking special treatment and that all developers are required to follow the same rules.
The two companies have yet to agree on how much time they need to work on their defenses before the trial (via Stephen Nellis). Epic asked for 4 to 6 months, while Apple said it needs 6 to 8 months. In the meantime, Judge Rogers said she may not “grant relieve” on Apple’s decision to ban Fortnite, but that doesn’t mean Apple will win this battle.
I can tell you right now that I am inclined not to grant relieve with respect to the games, but I am inclined to grant relieve with respect to the Unreal Engine.
In other words, while Apple may not be forced to allow Fortnite once again on the App Store, the judge may demand that Apple grant Epic Games access to its development platforms. Epic doesn’t offer other relevant iOS apps at the moment, but the company is responsible for Unreal Engine — which is used by several developers to create different games.
Judge Rogers expressed concerns about how Apple preventing Epic from accessing development platforms could impact the gaming business. She also considers that Apple has decided to give “retaliatory” punishment to Epic.
What Apple has done is reached beyond its one contact with Epic Games and is using hard leverage and has slammed Epic Games with this additional penalty. Remember, I just got this case, but it does to me look retaliatory.
Apple’s attorney Richard Doren argued that Epic decided to involve its customers in a business dispute, and that Apple wasn’t even obliged to give Epic 14 days to reverse the situation, but they did. Epic’s lawyer Katherine B. Forrest claims that this “is an act of maintained of monopoly, not the exercise of a contractual right.”
At the same time, Judge Rogers seems to be extremely skeptical about Epic not knowing exactly what they were doing when they decided to break the App Store rules and right after that announce a public campaign against Apple.
We still don’t have a specific date for the trial, but given the disagreements of the two companies this may not happen before 2021.
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