Following its removal of “Fortnite” from the App Store, Apple is planning to ban Epic Games from its developer ecosystem. Apple is taking action because Epic released an update for its battle royale hit that circumvented its in-app billing rules.
Epic filed paperwork asking a Northern District California judge to prevent its exile from the iPhone maker’s software platforms.
An ‘Unreal’ Penalty
On Monday, Epic tweeted Apple would cut off its access to the corporation’s iOS and Mac developer tools on August 28.
The game company said the banning would cause “unquantifiable and irreparable” damage to its business because of its impact on Epic’s Unreal Engine. In addition to powering “Fortnite,” the framework is also used by a host of other video games, including some offered through the Apple Arcade service. However, the studio will not be able to make updates to the Unreal Engine if it loses access to the iPhone maker’s software ecosystem.
Epic asked the court to stop the corporation’s planned banning. The studio’s injunctive release request called Apple’s threat to terminate its developer privileges retaliatory in nature. The firm argued its inability to update the Unreal Engine would harm its reputation and “millions of innocent consumers worldwide.”
The Other Side of the Argument
In its campaign against Apple’s App Store policies, Epic framed the electronics manufacturer as a trillion-dollar behemoth that engages in anticompetitive practices to preserve its revenue. The Cupertino, California-based firm laid out a different perspective in response to the game studio’s latest court filing. Based on its statement, Apple sees Epic as being in the wrong and itself as a consumer guardian.
Apple stated it “very much wants” Epic in its developer ecosystem and notes the firm found huge success on its platform. According to the iPhone maker, the game studio previously agreed to and abided by its digital marketplace guidelines. The corporation also said it is unwilling to make an exception to its rules because they exist to protect users.
Apple said its conflict with Epic would end if the company submits a version of the battle royale game that does not violate its guidelines.
Who Blinks First
At this point, it is hard to predict how the Apple/Epic battle will shake out. Given the firm had a polished anti-Apple video ready for release with its “Fortnite” update, the company had a plan in place. The studio has also publicly complained about the iPhone maker’s App Store practices for several years. As such, the developer probably anticipated being shut out of the brand’s marketplace as a consequence of its actions.
However, based on its new court filing, Epic probably did not expect Apple to react to so drastically so quickly. With its iOS user revenue at stake, the studio might reverse its position.
Even so, Apple is in a vulnerable place right now. The House of Representatives hammered CEO Tim Cook about the firm’s App Store policies during a recent subcommittee hearing. The brand is also facing antitrust investigations from the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Union. If Epic’s lawsuit galvanizes public sentiment against the company, its global profitability may suffer.
That said, Apple has a lot invested in its services segment. The division brought in more than $50 billion in revenue last year, and it is working to generate more sales with discount bundles and podcast offerings. The company is unlikely to surrender part of that income without government intervention and might be willing to lose the Unreal Engine to put down a third-party revolt.
Whatever happens, Epic’s lawsuit against Apple will have major implications for the mobile gaming industry.