Epic Games says Apple wants to crush Fortnite and its Unreal Engine

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 cost system and the as much as 30% fee it expenses, has was 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 mentioned in a Monday court docket submitting that the iPhone maker is additional threatening to ban the Unreal Engine code it affords 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 complete enterprise in unrelated areas,” Epic mentioned in its submitting, including that Apple’s set a deadline of Aug. 28. “If the Unreal Engine can not help Apple platforms, the software program builders that use it will likely be pressured to make use of alternate options.”

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Apple declined to comment further, pointing to its earlier statement confirming it kicked Fortnite from its app store and saying it hopes to work with the game maker to find a solution. Epic is in a similar lawsuit against Google, which also kicked Fortnite from its app store on Thursday for attempting to circumvent its commissioned payment system.

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 go in part to helping 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.

The two companies appeared at such a loggerheads going into the suits that Epic’s Fortnite would likely remain off the app store for the foreseeable future. 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 onto 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