Epic Games Takes On Apple - Unintended Consequences
Written by Lucy Black   
Thursday, 20 August 2020

UPDATE: Epic Games has lodged a court order against Apple's removal of Fortnite from the App Store. But this won't necessarily be successful any time soon. Seeing a market opportunity, iPhones with Fortnite pre-loaded are being put on sale for big bucks.

When Epic Games rebelled against the fact that Apple and Google take a 30% cut not only of sales but subsequent in-app purchases it was expecting, and prepared for, a fight. However Apple has fought back by threatening to deny access to the developer tools Epic needs to maintain its Unreal Engine. This seems to have caught Epic off-guard.

As outlined by Mike James in Epic Games V Apple & Google - Smash The App Stores a new struggle has been initiated to challenge the monopoly hold over app developers exerted by Apple, and to a lesser extent by Google.

appstoreicon

To put the story in a nutshell, last week Epic Games updated Fortnite, its highly popular battle royale game, giving players a 20% discount for paying Epic directly. This violated the policies of both the App Store and Google Play and Fortnite was pulled from both. Epic very quickly filed antitrust lawsuits against both Apple and Google them and also had a YouTube video that quickly went viral to bolster its case against Apple. In the case of Google Epic limited iself to citing the "Don't Be Evil" motto in its lawsuit.

Neither of these lawsuits will come to court any time soon and indeed there is still uncertainly about where the Apple case will be heard - San Francisco or Oakland, but on his FOSS Patents blog Florian Mueller reported that: 

Initial case management conferences have been scheduled in the Apple case for November 12, and in the Google case for November 18.

This is a long time for a highly popular app to be unavailable for purchase and we estimate the loss of income to Epic Games at around $1 million per day.

However, in the Epic Games V Apple scenario, the delisting of Fortnite is just the tip of the iceberg as Apple really does have effective control over developers through the app store. Refusing to make an exception for Epic Games, which has to be one of the biggest contributors to its coffers, Apple has said that unless Epic Games falls into line it will terminate all its developer accounts, effective August 28th. As well as making all Epic's apps unavailble, this mean that Epic will no longer have access to the development tools necessary to create software for all Apple’s platforms - MAC as well as iOS which means that it willbe unable to keep its Unreal Engine, which is used by very many third-party developers in addition to Epic itself.

This really will hit Epic where it hurts - and will have ramifications for all developers who use the Unreal Engine.

Epic has requested a temporary restraining order against Apple, dated August 17th, which itemises three points:

(1) restraining Defendant Apple Inc. (“Apple”) from removing, de-listing, refusing to list or otherwise making unavailable the app Fortnite, including any update thereof, from the App Store on the basis that Fortnite offers in-app payment processing through means other than Apple’s In-App Purchase (“IAP”) or on any pretextual basis;

(2) restraining Apple from removing, disabling or modifying Fortnite or any code, script, feature, setting, version or update thereof from any iOS user’s device;

(3) restraining Apple from taking any adverse action against Epic, including but not limited to restricting, suspending, or terminating any Epic entity from Apple’s Developer Program, on the basis that Epic enabled in-app payment processing in Fortnite through means other than IAP or on the basis of the steps Epic took to do so. 

A preliminary hearing had been scheduled as a Zoom Conference for Monday August 24th, but after Apple appointed the firm Gibson Dunn to represent it, Apple was granted more time to respond - the new deadline is midnight on Friday 21st - and nothing is going to happen as soon as next Monday.

Update:  More unintended consequences

ebayphone

This is one you almost could have guessed at. A market for iPhones with Fortnite installed has sprung up on eBay and they are selling for thousands. Are people really so desperate to play that they would pay so much? If you expect the dispute to go on for a long time then perhaps it might be but it is clear that this cannot continue. The legal case could drag on for years and Epic are unlikely to accept the loss of income for so long. If there is no quick return the the App Store, and this looks likely, Epic will have to fix the problem and accept Apples offer to return Fortnite to the App Store. Either way the game is only missing for a short while.

unrealenglogo

More Information

Epic v Apple Restraining Order (pdf)

Apple gets more time to respond to Epic Games' motion for a temporary restraining order

Related Articles

Epic Games V Apple & Google - Smash The App Stores

Epic Games CEO Finally Notices That UWP Apps Are A Walled Garden


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 20 August 2020 )