In the latest development of the legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, the Fortnite developer announced it has filed for a preliminary injunction that would put its game back in the app store and restore its developer account.
Today we asked the Court to stop Apple’s retaliation against Epic for daring to challenge its unlawful restrictions while our antitrust case proceeds. This is a necessary step to free consumers and developers from Apple’s costly, anti-competitive control. https://t.co/r2XxhitjMp— Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) September 5, 2020
In case you missed how things started, Epic’s Fortnite Mega Drop on mobile devices last month included an offer to pay the company directly for in-game currency — bypassing payment systems from Apple and Google that demand a cut of the profits — and offering players a discount to do it. Apple and Google quickly removed the game from their officially supported App Stores, and on iOS, that left players with no way to install the game or even remove updates.
Termination of Epic’s developer account also removed its other games from the App Store, including some Apple had previously used to show off its development platforms. The judge already ruled that Apple can’t kick Unreal Engine as a whole off of its platform, for now, and now Epic is pushing to get back the access it’s lost while its antitrust case against Apple continues.
In a statement, Epic Games said “Today we ask the Court to stop Apple from retaliating against Epic for daring to challenge Apple’s misconduct while our antitrust case proceeds. Apple is a monopolist and standing up to them is a necessary step to free consumers and developers from the unlawful restrictions Apple has imposed over app distribution and in-app payment processing on iOS. For too long, developers have not spoken out because they fear Apple’s retaliation. The company’s recent actions show that if you challenge Apple’s monopoly, Apple will attempt to destroy your business. We are committed to speaking up and securing lower cost, competitive access for all.”
You can read through an FAQ here and the 182 page filing here (PDF), which includes CEO Tim Sweeney’s emails to Apple, as well as responses from the Apple legal department claiming its stance protects the consumer.
According to Sweeney in a subsequent email, “If Apple someday chooses to return to its roots building open platforms in which consumers have freedom to install software from sources of their choosing, and developers can reach consumers and do business directly without intermediation, then Epic will once again be an ardent supporter of Apple. Until then, Epic is in a state of substantial disagreement with Apple's policy and practices, and we will continue to pursue this, as we have done in the past to address other injustices in our industry.”
There are many groups watching from the sidelines, including indie developers who rely on Epic’s development tools, services seeking to launch cloud gaming apps that work on iOS and other developers who also want some flexibility in dealing with the 30 percent cut app stores take from their revenue. Right now the only thing that seems certain is that this isn’t going away anytime soon — a sad state of affairs for the gamers mentioned last in the PDF who posted comments begging to be able to play Fortnite on iOS again.