Epic Keeps Developer Licence - For Now
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 27 August 2020

The dispute between Epic and Apple is going to run and run and part of the problem is minimizing the damage while the dispute remains unresolved. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Apple to protect Unreal Engine and its users and Epic is directing mobile-using Fortnite afficianados who want to participate in the new Season to do so on Android.

There is no question that Epic chose deliberately to break the terms of the App Store. In such cases it would be automatic that Apple would revoke the developers license and hence the ability to work on any iOS projects. If the rules of the App Store were fair then this would be reasonable, but as we reported recently, it has unintended consequences - well they might be unintended.

In this case Epic is responsible for the Unreal game engine and other developers make use of this for their games and apps. If Apple removes Epic's developer license it is not just Epic that suffers.

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Epic submitted a temporary restraining order against Apple asking that Fortnite be allowed back into the App Store and that it should keep its developer licence to continue work on Unreal and avoid any effects on other "innocent" developers.

The idea is that, while the matter isn't resolved, Apple should be "restrained" from doing damage. The judge decided that the Unreal Engine should be protected, but that Fortnite should not.

The argument seems to be that Epic deliberately broke the terms of the agreement and would have known what would happen as a result and it could solve the problem by simply complying with the rules. However Apple's move against Unreal can be seen as vindictive or coersive, but this isn't the reason for the granting of the restraint. It seems that Unreal belongs to a slightly different company from Epic Games Inc. Apple argues that the associate company is still Epic Games and that it would terminate the developer licence of associates as well as the original company. The judge, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, seems to have agreed with Epic about Unreal:

"The record shows potential significant damage to both the Unreal Engine platform itself, and to the gaming industry generally, including on both third-party developers and gamers,"

and

"Epic Games violated App Store's guidelines, it did not breach any contracts related to Unreal Engine and developer tools."

but when it comes to Fortnite the damage is self inflicted:

"...in my view, you cannot have irreparable harm when you create the harm yourself."

In other words, Epic could have brought the lawsuit without breaking the rules of the App Store and so have ensured that Fortnite remained available. Continuing to break the rules is not part of making the case.

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The temporary restraining order lapses in a fortnight (how appropriate) unless extended by consent or replaced by a preliminary injunction, so even this small point isn't over just yet.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I forget just how tight Apple's control over its platform really is. It is one thing to control who can sell or give away apps to users, but it is another to control who can write programs. If you had told me, some 13 years ago, that I couldn't own a computer that I could freely program, I would have assumed that you were slightly mad - but clearly not.

The battle between Epic and Apple is better than a computer game No, it really is. Apart from the courtroom drama, there are also the maneuverings of the companies who would like to back Epic but are afraid, or have some other reason, to join in. Epic was, and is, clearly hoping to gather a bandwagon of support, but so far only Microsoft has gone out of its way to back the move. Microsoft uses Unreal in a number of iOS games and would have been one of the companies impacted by Epic's loss of a licence. Microsoft made a legal declaraion that the loss of Unreal would have a wide impact.

It is only a short time since Epic was having a go at Microsoft's own walled garden, UWP. However, Microsoft never managed to grow anything worthwhile behind its walls and, with the loss of Windows Phone, it has nothing to lose and much to gain from weakening Apple's total control over iOS.

It seems that the fight is already doing some damage to the games industry as Unity, a rival game engine, mentions in its IPO filing that Apple's control of the App Store could impact its earnings.

Epic is also hoping to get public opinion on its side. It has already used its gaming skills in the creation of the parody of Apple's famous video advert. Now its main weapon against Apple is the  Fortnite game itself. Last weekend it held the 'FreeFortnite Cup in which the villain was portrayes as a diticntly bad Apple:

fortnitegame

Today August 27 Fortnite Chapter 2 - Season 4, Nexus War, has launched - but not on iOS and macOS, nor is it available from Google Play. Epic has stated on the Fortnite site:

If you still want to play Fortnite on Android, you can access the latest version of Fortnite from the Epic Games App for Android on Fortnite.com/Android or the Samsung Galaxy Store.

From the tweets and comments, gamers don't seem to be behind Epic - seeing them a just as bad as Apple. Rumor also has it that developers are abandoning Unreal as fast as they can.

Why do I feel that Epic might just win the battle but lose the war.

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More Information

Join the battle and play in the #freefortnite cup on august 23

Judge not inclined to order Apple to tolerate Fortnite's alternative payment system, but Epic's Unreal Engine may be safe until late September

Related Articles

Epic Games Takes On Apple - Unintended Consequences

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, 27 August 2020 )