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Apple just went nuclear in its war with Epic over ‘Fortnite’

Updated Aug 29th, 2020 12:17AM EDT
Apple Vs Epic Games
Image: Epic Games

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  • Apple today terminated Epic Games’ developer account.
  • The drastic move comes two weeks after Apple warned Epic it had 14 days to submit a version of Fortnite that complies with Apple’s App Store guidelines.
  • Epic Games earlier this month actively flouted Apple’s App Store rules when it started to allow Fortnite users to pay for in-app transactions directly and, in turn, bypass Apple’s in-app payment system.

Apple and Epic Games are currently involved in a high-stakes game of chicken and neither company is prepared to blink. Earlier today, Apple made good on its promise to terminate Epic’s developer account after the company refused to update Fortnite to comply with Apple’s App Store guidelines.

Epic Games’ dispute with Apple has been brewing for some time and can be traced back to the company’s frustration with Apple’s 30% cut on all in-app transactions. Epic Games vehemently believes this is far too high of a percentage and wants to be able to charge users directly for micro-transactions. What’s more, Epic Games also wants Apple to let it house its own app store within Apple’s App Store. Apple naturally isn’t willing to budge an inch and promptly removed Fortnite from the App Store earlier this month.

Apple, though, decided to go nuclear when it gave Epic a two-week window under which it could submit a compliant version of Fortnite to the App Store. Apple said that if Epic didn’t comply, its developer account would be terminated. Epic ignored Apple’s warning and, consequently, there are no longer any Epic Games on the App Store.

Before the two-week window expired today, Epic tried to get an injunction that would have prevented Apple from keeping Fortnite off the App Store. That request, however, was not granted by the court, with Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers noting that any damage Epic Games incurs from Fortnite being off the App Store is a direct result of Epic strategically choosing to break its existing agreement with Apple.

The Court finds that with respect to Epic Games’ motion as to its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm. The current predicament appears of its own making.

The heated emails between company executives over the past few weeks — a few of which we highlighted over here — suggests that this case will likely go to trial. For Apple, the case represents an affront to the company’s business model. For Epic, the issue is a matter of principle.

Ahead of the deadline today, Epic last night sent out an email to users blaming Apple for the current predicament:

Apple is blocking Fortnite updates and new installs on the ‌App Store‌, and has said they will terminate our ability to develop Fortnite for Apple devices. As a result, the Chapter 2 – Season 4 update (v14.00), did not release on iOS and macOS on August 27.

Apple limits competition so they can collect 30% of consumer payments made in apps like Fortnite, raising the prices you pay. Epic lowered prices through a direct payment option, but Apple is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to players. Epic has taken legal action to end Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions on mobile device marketplaces. Papers are available for our August 13, August 17, and August 23 filings. In retaliation for this action, Apple blocked your access to Fortnite updates and new installs on all iOS devices.

It is worth noting that both Sony and Microsoft take a 30% cut on all Fortnite transactions from Playstation and Xbox users, prompting some to categorize Epic’s stance as somewhat hypocritical.

Apple has emphasized on a number of occasions that it would be happy to let Epic back into the App Store if it removes the feature which allows users to pay Epic directly for in-app transactions.

“We agree with Judge Gonzalez-Rogers that ‘the sensible way to proceed’ is for Epic to comply with the ‌App Store‌ guidelines and continue to operate while the case proceeds,” Apple said recently. “If Epic takes the steps the judge has recommended, we will gladly welcome Fortnite back onto iOS. We look forward to making our case to the court in September.”

Apple issued the following statement in the wake of it deleting Epic Games’ developer account:

We are disappointed that we have had to terminate the Epic Games account on the ‌App Store‌. We have worked with the team at Epic Games for many years on their launches and releases. The court recommended that Epic comply with the ‌App Store‌ guidelines while their case moves forward, guidelines they’ve followed for the past decade until they created this situation. Epic has refused. Instead they repeatedly submit Fortnite updates designed to violate the guidelines of the ‌App Store‌. This is not fair to all other developers on the ‌App Store‌ and is putting customers in the middle of their fight. We hope that we can work together again in the future, but unfortunately that is not possible today.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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