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Apple Warns Epic It Will Terminate Epic’s Developer Account in Two Weeks; Epic Asks Court to Intervene

Epic Games Newsroom:

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://cdn2.unrealengine.com/epic-v-apple-8-17-20-768927327.pdf

From Epic’s motion:

First, Apple’s actions harm millions of innocent consumers worldwide — the players who enjoy Fortnite and other Epic games — which will sever their trust with Epic, a loss that is impossible to quantify. Because Apple has now removed Fortnite from the App Store, iOS users cannot receive updates and will soon be stranded in an outdated version of the game, unable to connect with family and friends who will play future versions on other platforms. iOS users will also lose access to new content that Epic regularly releases, such as the eagerly anticipated new season of the game scheduled to launch at the end of this month.

Epic’s motion suggests the only solution here is for Apple to be forced, by the court, to re-list Fortnite in the App Store while allowing Epic to continue using their own in-app purchasing system. The alternative, of course, would be for Epic to submit a Fortnite update that removes their rule-breaking in-app purchasing system. Until this is resolved, there are three possible states:

  • Apple is forced to restore Fortnite in the store and allow Epic to flagrantly disregard the App Store guidelines on in-app purchasing until the legal case is settled.
  • Epic can remove its own payment system and Fortnite goes back in the App Store in compliance with the existing rules.
  • Epic refuses to submit an update in compliance with the current rules, the court refuses to force Apple to restore Fortnite in the interim, and iOS Fortnite users miss out on the new season, and new users can’t get Fortnite for iOS.

(It’s worth noting that anyone who previously downloaded Fortnite for iOS can still get it. Like if you previously downloaded it and subsequently deleted it, or if you get a new iPhone or iPad and need to reinstall all your apps, or even if someone other than you in your family account previously installed it. I don’t know if that will change on August 28, if Apple goes through with revoking Epic’s developer account.)

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. If the Unreal Engine can no longer support Apple platforms, the software developers that use it will be forced to use alternatives. The damage to Epic’s ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable. Preliminary injunctive relief is necessary to prevent Apple from crushing Epic before this case could ever get to judgment.

I’ll just go out on a limb here and guess that no matter how this gets resolved, we won’t be seeing any more Unreal Engine demos on stage at Apple keynotes.

The morning Epic made these options available, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, ensuring that millions of players would imminently lose the ability to use Fortnite to connect with their family and friends. Soon after, Epic filed its suit against Apple challenging its monopoly on app stores and in-app purchases. Less than twelve hours later, Apple notified Epic it was terminating Epic from the Apple Developer Program, blocking all Epic products from distribution through Apple’s App Store. Apple specifically stated it would terminate Epic’s access to development tools, including those necessary for Epic to keep offering the world’s most popular graphics engine, the Unreal Engine. The Unreal Engine is used to develop a wide array of products including games, films, biomedical research and virtual reality. Millions of developers rely on the Unreal Engine to develop software, and hundreds of millions of consumers use that software.

It’s a fascinating armchair quarterback game to speculate on what Epic anticipated from Apple as a reaction and what they didn’t. Pulling Fortnite from the App Store they obviously anticipated — Epic had both the lawsuit and 1984 ad parody ready to go. Revoking Epic’s developer account, I’m not so sure.

Monday, 17 August 2020