After Fortnite Ban, Epic Says Apple Has "Retaliated Ferociously" Against Unreal Engine

Epic suggests that Apple might even remove Fortnite from existing players' devices.

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In the latest development of the very public spat between Apple and Epic Games, Epic has issued a new filing in which it claims that Apple has "retaliated ferociously" to its lawsuit. While we already knew that Apple had removed Fortnite from the App Store, it's now taken things further. According to Epic, Apple will cut off Epic's access to development tools later this month--including those it uses to work on the Unreal Engine utilized by Epic and numerous other developers in the industry.

Epic's filing quickly notes that Apple has not indicated that the Unreal Engine itself has violated any App Store policies. "Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic's entire business in unrelated areas," the filing states. The Unreal Engine is a massive business for Epic, and a big part of the reason that it's grown to be as hugely influential as it has become. In addition to of course powering Fortnite, it's also used on iOS in games like PUBG Mobile.

In response to this threat, Epic is seeking an injunction against Apple. Epic argues that it would eventually succeed in its recently filed legal case, but that Apple is attempting to "crush" Epic before the case can get to that point with what it says would be a "catastrophic" action against its Unreal Engine business.

Specifically, the injunction looks to block Apple from doing three key things: de-listing Fortnite from the App Store (or otherwise making it unavailable); taking adverse action against Epic, such as terminating its access to the Apple Developer Program; or removing Fortnite from existing users' devices. As it stands, existing Fortnite players can continue to play the game on iOS or re-download the game, although Epic has said that forthcoming updates (including the new season) will not be available to download on the platform. This filing suggests the possibility that Apple could take things further and outright disable the game from being played, even in its current form, on iOS devices. So far, Apple has not publicly indicated that it intends to do so.

Apple has, however, said that this problem would essentially disappear if Epic Games would revert Fortnite's payment system back to its previous form. Given that Epic Games had prepared its lawsuit in advance knowing the game would be removed from the App Store, it's unlikely this will happen.

Essentially, Epic is asking the courts to force Apple to put its actions--both those it's taken and might take in the future--against Epic and Fortnite on hold while its court case is adjudicated.

Epic also argues that it would suffer "irreparable harm" if Apple were to cut off its Developer Program access. From the filing:

Apple's retaliation represents an existential threat to Epic’s Unreal Engine. OS providers like Apple routinely make certain software and developer tools available to software developers, for free or a small fee, to enable the development of software that will run on the OS. Apple intends to deny Epic access to that widely available material. Without that access, Epic cannot develop future versions of the Unreal Engine for use on iOS or macOS. Developers that intend to sell their apps for use on iOS or macOS devices will have to forgo the Unreal Engine in favor of other engines. The effects will reverberate well beyond video games; it will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields. The ensuing impact on the Unreal Engine's viability, and the trust and confidence developers have in that engine, cannot be repaired with a monetary award. This is quintessential irreparable harm.

This new filing is lengthy, although portions of it simply re-state what was argued in the lawsuit last week. Essentially it boils down to this: Epic accuses Apple (and Google, in its separate lawsuit) of operating a monopoly with the way the App Store operates. The entire situation began when Epic introduced an alternative payment method inside of Fortnite, giving players an option to purchase V-Bucks directly from Epic and cutting Apple out entirely. Apple responded by kicking Fortnite off the App Store, prompting Epic's lawsuit.

We'll report back as we learn more.

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