Apple Retaliates Against Epic

Posted on August 17, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Dev, iOS, Mac and macOS, Mobile, Mobile gaming with 90 Comments

Epic revealed today that Apple is terminating its developer accounts and cutting off the firm from its iOS and Mac developer tools. So Epic has filed a second lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court of California to stop this retaliation.

“Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store and has informed Epic that on Friday, August 28 Apple will terminate all our developer accounts and cut Epic off from iOS and Mac development tools,” Epic tweeted today. “We are asking the court to stop this retaliation.”

In the new lawsuit, Epic explains that it wishes the court to prevent Apple “restricting, suspending, or terminating any Epic entity from Apple’s Developer Program, on the basis that Epic enabled in-app payment processing in Fortnite through means other than [Apple’s in-app purchase program] or on the basis of the steps Epic took to do so.” The firm says that this retaliation will cause it irreparable harm and that its first lawsuit against Apple is likely to succeed because Apple’s business practices violate the Sherman Act, a cornerstone of U.S. antitrust law.

“The consequences from Apple’s actions are immediate and grave,” the new lawsuit claims. “Apple’s actions to block Epic from accessing the suite of tools all developers use to make software compatible with Apple products is a direct attack on the ongoing viability of the Unreal Engine. It would make it impossible for Epic to continue developing the engine for use on iOS and macOS devices. Third-party developers who rely on the Unreal Engine to power their software on Apple devices will not choose to use the Unreal Engine if it is incompatible with Apple OSs.”

Between its two lawsuits, Epic makes an excellent, well-researched, and well-documented legal attack on Apple’s business practices. I advise anyone who backs Apple in this case to please read both of them in full to truly understand the stakes and the impact that Apple’s behavior has had and will continue to have on developers and consumers.

That said, I do find one aspect of this second suit to be troubling for Epic: Apple is threatening to terminate Epic’s developer account only if Epic doesn’t revert Fortnite to the version that didn’t include its own in-app payment system. While I feel that Epic is right to fight Apple on this topic, making this simple change would allow it to continue updating Fortnite and the Unreal Engine, and stay in the Apple Developer Program while the first case makes its way through the court system. This is the kind of reasonable behavior that Epic and others expect of Apple. We might expect it of Epic as well.

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