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Apple won't let 'Fortnite' back on the App Store until all court appeals are exhausted

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney said the process could last another five years.

This illustration picture shows Epic Games' Fortnite loading on a smartphone in Los Angeles on August 14, 2020. - Apple and Google on August 13, 2020 pulled video game sensation Fortnite from their mobile app shops after its maker Epic Games released an update that dodges revenue sharing with the tech giants. (Photo by Chris DELMAS / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)
CHRIS DELMAS via Getty Images
Kris Holt
Kris Holt|@krisholt|September 22, 2021 1:52 PM

Apple has told Epic Games it will not allow Fortnite back onto the iOS or macOS App Stores until the outcome of the lawsuit between the two is finalized. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney shared communications between the two sides, in which Apple said it won't consider reinstating Epic's developer program account "until the district court's judgment becomes final and nonappealable." 

Apple yanked Fortnite from the iOS App Store in August last year after Epic added an alternative payment method to bypass the 30 percent cut that Apple takes from in-app purchases. Epic swiftly filed a lawsuit against Apple over App Store policies (it sued Google around the same time for similar reasons). The Apple case went to trial in May.

Earlier this month, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled in Apple's favor on most counts, but there was one win for Epic. The judge issued a permanent injunction instructing Apple to let App Store developers direct users to alternative payment systems. Epic appealed the ruling, and Apple has yet to decide whether to do so. The injunction is set to take effect on December 9th.

Given how long it can take to resolve appeals through the various levels of the court system, Sweeney says it could take five years until the case is truly over and Fortnite is back on the App Store. He also accused Apple of going back on its word. 

Apple has said that "we would welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else." On Twitter, Sweeney shared an email he sent to App Store head Phil Schiller last Thursday, stating that Epic would abide by those rules. 

"Though we can't update the Fortnite version that users still have on their iOS devices, we've disabled Epic payments server-side and have paid Apple $6 million as ordered by the court," Sweeney wrote in the email. "Epic promises that it will adhere to Apple's guidelines whenever and wherever we release products on Apple platforms." He added that Epic would restore Fortnite on Mac as soon as possible if Apple restored the developer account. 

Things are more complicated when it comes to iOS. Sweeney told Schiller that bringing the game back to iPhone and iPad "depends on whether and where Apple updates its guidelines to provide for a level playing field between Apple in-app purchase and other methods of payment. Epic will resubmit Fortnite to the App Store if you adhere to the plain language of the court order and allow apps to include buttons and external links that direct customers to other purchasing mechanisms without onerous terms or impediments to a good user experience."

However, as Apple's lawyers wrote in a letter to Epic on Monday, the court affirmed "Apple's termination of the [Developer Program License Agreement] and the related agreements between Epic Games and Apple was valid, lawful and enforceable" following a breach of contract by Epic. Apple noted Sweeney said after the ruling that his company wouldn't give up an alternative payment system "to get Fortnite back on iOS."

Following that comment and "other statements since the court's decision, couple with Epic's duplicitous conduct in the past, Apple has exercised its discretion not to reinstate Epic's developer program account at this time," the letter states. 

In short, unless you stream the game to your iPhone from your Xbox or PlayStation, don't expect to build armored walls in Fortnite on iOS any time in the near future.

Apple won't let 'Fortnite' back on the App Store until all court appeals are exhausted