What just happened? The Epic Games vs. Apple (and Google) saga is getting nastier. Following Cupertino's decision to remove Fortnite from its App Store, the iPhone maker is preparing to "terminate" all of Epic's developer accounts and cut the company off from iOS and Mac developer tools. Epic says this would be catastrophic for its Unreal Engine business and has launched another lawsuit in response.
How did we find ourselves here? Last week, Epic silently pushed out an update for Fortnite on iOS and Android that introduced an alternative payment method—the Epic Direct Payment option. It allowed users to pay Epic directly for in-app purchases, bypassing the 30 percent cut taken by Apple and Google. This was good news for players, who got a 20 percent discount on purchases, but Apple wasn't too pleased. It removed the game from its store, leading to Epic suing the firm and seeking injunctive relief to end Apple's "unfair and anti-competitive actions." Hours later, Google also booted Fortnite from its Play Store, which resulted in another antitrust lawsuit from Epic.
Apple, obviously not happy about the whole situation, appears to have thrown a full-on tantrum. On August 28th, it will end Epic's involvement in the Apple Developer Program, of which membership is required to distribute apps on iOS devices or use Apple developer tools. Apple says this will happen if Epic does not "cure your breaches" to the agreement.
Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store and has informed Epic that on Friday, August 28 Apple will terminate all our developer accounts and cut Epic off from iOS and Mac development tools. We are asking the court to stop this retaliation. Details here: https://t.co/3br1EHmyd8— Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) August 17, 2020
Epic says that cutting it off from development tools will affect software such as the Unreal Engine, which it offers to third-party developers. Epic says Unreal Engine has never violated any Apple policy, and without the tools, it cannot develop future versions of the software for iOS or Mac.
"Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic's entire business in unrelated areas," the most recent lawsuit states. "Left unchecked, Apple's actions will irreparably damage Epic's reputation among Fortnite users and be catastrophic for the future of the separate Unreal Engine business."
Epic is seeking preliminary injunctive relief, which it says is necessary to prevent its business from being irreparably harmed before a final judgment is reached. The company also asks that Fortnite be returned to the App Store with the direct payment option still in place.
In a statement to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman regarding Epic’s developer account termination, Apple said:
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 millions 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 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.