Apple’s out to crush Fortnite and Unreal Engine, Epic Games says. Apple refuses to make exception

Epic is in the same lawsuit towards Google, which additionally kicked Fortnite off its app retailer.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple and Epic’s authorized battle dramatically escalated over the weekend. What started as an argument over Epic Games wanting to charge players directly for in-game objects for its hit sport Fortnite, as a substitute of utilizing Apple’s fee system and the as much as 30% fee it costs, has changed into a battle that threatens to upend sport growth throughout the trade.

After Apple kicked Fortnite and its more than 250 million players from the app retailer final week, Epic stated in a Monday courtroom submitting that the iPhone maker is additional threatening to ban the Unreal Engine code it presents to exterior sport builders to assist them make apps of their very own. 

“Not content material merely to take away Fortnite from the App Retailer, Apple is attacking Epic’s total enterprise in unrelated areas,” Epic stated in its submitting, including that Apple’s set a deadline of Aug. 28. “If the Unreal Engine can not assist Apple platforms, the software program builders that use it is going to be pressured to make use of options.” 

Epic is in a similar lawsuit against Google, which additionally kicked Fortnite off its app retailer Thursday for making an attempt to bypass its commissioned fee system.

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Apple in a statement late Monday noted Epic “has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store,” and wants it to remain on its service. In order to do that, though, Apple said Epic would need to revert Fortnite to an earlier version of the game to “comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers.” That includes how Epic collects money from gamers.

“We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their businesses interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers,” an Apple spokeswoman added.

You may see Epic’s lawsuit with Apple as a corporate squabble between two multibillion-dollar companies, and the drama certainly feels like it. Epic even launched a video parody of Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl Macintosh ad, depicting the game maker as battling the powerful tech giant. Epic even asked users to tweet the hashtag #FreeFortnite, which shot to the top trending item worldwide on Twitter within an hour of the video’s release.

Despite the antics, Epic argues its push to charge customers directly in Fortnite for in-game items is an effort to loosen Apple’s grip on its app store and the more than 1 billion devices that use it. Now, with Apple’s threat to punish outside app developers who use Epic’s Unreal Engine, Epic says the iPhone maker is threatening its business model too.

Apple meanwhile says its fees of up to 30% are reasonable when compared to its peers, and it even hired a team of outside economists to prove it. Apple’s also argued the commissions it charges for in-app purchases in part help pay for the app store’s operations and further development. The notable exception to its list of peers is Epic, which charges 12% to developers who sell titles on its Epic Games Store for PCs

The European Union is investigating Apple over its 30% commission after music streaming service Spotify filed a complaint.

Apple only allows users to install apps from its app store, citing its security and reliability testing for each app that ensures they’re safe. Devices powered by Google’s Android software can use Google’s app store, but the company also offers a way to manually install Fortnite without having to go through the app store. People who installed Fortnite on their iPhones, iPads and other devices before the app was banned so far can continue to play the game.

Epic on Monday asked the court for a preliminary injunction in its pending legal battle with Apple, essentially allowing Fortnite back on the app store until the legal proceedings conclude. Apple doesn’t appear to have filed a response so far, according to court records.

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Ian Sherr