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Last week, Fortnite released a new update that circumvented Apple and Google's rules on in-app payments, by allowing players to purchase V-Bucks without Apple and Google taking 30% of the revenue. The game was promptly removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and now Apple is further retaliating against Epic.
Epic Games has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, seeking to force Apple to re-list Fortnite on the App Store, or at least not removing it from existing devices (which is possible on iOS). According to Epic's legal filings, Apple will cut off the company from all iOS/macOS development tools by August 28th, including the company's early access to new iOS and Mac releases.
"[Apple] told Epic that by August 28," the document alleges, "Apple will cut off Epic’s access to all development tools necessary to create software for Apple’s platforms—including for the Unreal Engine Epic offers to third-party developers, which Apple has never claimed violated any Apple policy. Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas."
The decision to block development on Unreal Engine across macOS and iOS will have far-reaching consequences for third-party game developers. While Unreal isn't an incredibly popular option for smartphone games, it has been used for titles like Batman: Arkham Origins, Dungeon Defenders, and the Infinite Blade series. The engine is also used in some desktop software for real-time 3D modeling — Disney's The Mandalorian utilized the Unreal Engine for creating live backdrops.
Microsoft has filed a statement in support of Epic Games. While the company didn't comment specifically on the issues of app revenue and locked down platforms, Microsoft did say that Epic's access to iOS and macOS development shouldn't be cut off.
Today we filed a statement in support of Epic's request to keep access to the Apple SDK for its Unreal Engine. Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & gamers https://t.co/72bLdDkvUx
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) August 23, 2020
"Denying Epic access to Apple’s SDK and other development tools," Microsoft said, "will prevent Epic from supporting Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS, and will place Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage. [...] If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games."
Microsoft specifically cited Forza Street as one game it develops on iOS that uses Unreal Engine. Forza Street was originally released on Windows last year, and it arrived on iOS and Android in May of this year.
Temporary restraining order
Epic Games has partially won a temporary restraining order against Apple, according to The Verge. Epic's access to developer tools to maintain Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS will be reinstated, as Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said Apple "has chosen to act severely" by impacting third-party developers.
However, the ruling didn't require Apple to reinstate Fortnite on the iOS App Store. Rogers ruled that Epic "strategically chose to breach its agreements with Apple."
- Epic Games