Microsoft backs Epic's request to keep using Apple developer tools

Epic also claimed Apple was threatening a whole host of developers

CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images

Epic Games has an ally in its bid to prevent Apple revoking access to developer tools. Microsoft has filed a statement (via The Verge) supporting Epic’s request to maintain developer kit access while its lawsuit against Apple continues. Gaming Developer Experiences General Manager Kevin Gammill claimed that Epic’s Unreal Engine was “critical technology” for the industry, and losing access to that on iOS and Mac would deprive Microsoft and other game creators of a key engine choice. That could be calamitous for developers if an Unreal-based game is well into development.

Microsoft and other companies would have to choose between restarting development, dropping support for Apple devices or cancelling a game “entirely,” Gammill said. This could be problematic for already-published games, the manager added. It might not only prevent iOS and Mac users from getting new features, bug fixes and security updates, but could split the market as they’re cut off from playing online against people on other platforms.

The move was linked to an Epic memorandum supporting the Fortnite creator’s attempt to maintain access. Epic rejected Apple’s belief that Epic hadn’t provided evidence of significant harm to the Unreal Engine, pointing to both earlier documents and Microsoft’s support as proof. Epic further claimed that Apple was overreaching by threatening to take away multiple developer accounts when there was only an alleged violation for one. The scope of Apple’s response was an “unlawful” effort to “chill any action by others who might dare oppose Apple,” Epic said.

Apple previously accused Epic of trying to create a false crisis by intentionally breaking App Store rules, and characterizing its response as a matter of known policy. Developers who “work to deceive Apple” lose access, the company said.

It’s not certain if Microsoft’s backing will help Epic get a reprieve. While the support does illustrate the possible ripple effect on the game industry, it’s still true that Epic knew the likely consequences of breaking App Store rules — it had a lawsuit and marketing campaign ready to go the day Apple pulled Fortnite. There’s no guarantee a court will sympathize with Epic’s request for a reprieve, no matter how well the lawsuit might fare.