Apple threatens to cut access to epic's iOS and MacOS development tools in retaliation for introducing a new payment option in Fortnite
Epic claims that Apple threatened to cut off access to all iOS and Mac development tools in retaliation for introducing a new payment option in Fortnite last week, a chain of events that led to the removal of the application from the App Store and a complaint filed by Epic against Apple for abuse of dominance in which the publisher claims that it imposes illegal restrictions on the distribution of iOS applications.
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Apple will end Epic's inclusion in the Apple Developer Program, a subscription required to distribute applications on iOS devices or use Apple development tools, if the company does not "cure your violations" of the agreement within two weeks, according to a letter from Apple that was shared by Epic. Epic will also not be able to notarize Mac applications, a process that could make it more difficult to install Epic's software or block it altogether. Apple requires all applications to be notarized before they can run on newer versions of MacOS, even if they are distributed outside the App Store.
Epic has filed a preliminary injunction application against Apple, asking the court to prevent the company from blocking its application. Epic says it will be "irreparably damaged long before the final judgment" if it doesn't get the injunction. "Apple's actions will irreparably damage Epic's reputation among Fortnite users and will be catastrophic for the future of the separate Unreal Engine business," Epic says. Epic is also requesting that Fortnite, with its discounted pricing and alternative payment option, be put back on the App Store.
Fortnite's publisher's expectations
Epic is now seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent Apple from deleting, refusing to list or making unavailable the Fortnite application, including any Fortnite updates, on the App Store because it gives Fortnite users the choice to turn to the lowest price on integrated purchases. Epic is also seeking an order prohibiting Apple from taking action against other Epic games and the Unreal Engine in retaliation for Epic's actions to provide Fortnite users with choice and lower prices on integrated purchases. Epic satisfies all elements of a preliminary injunction.
The publisher argues that, first, Apple's actions harm millions of innocent consumers around the world, thereby breaking their trust in Epic. Since Apple has now removed Fortnite from the App Store, iOS users cannot receive updates and will soon be blocked as they will have an obsolete version of the game. iOS users will also lose access to new content regularly published by Epic, such as the much-anticipated new season of the game which is expected to launch at the end of this month.
In addition, Apple's retaliation represents an existential threat to Epic's Unreal Engine. Operating system vendors such as Apple regularly make certain software and development tools available to software developers, either free of charge or for a small fee, to enable the development of software that will run on the operating system. Apple intends to deny Epic access to this widely available material. Without such access, Epic may not develop future versions of Unreal Engine for use on iOS or macOS. Developers who intend to sell their applications for use on iOS or macOS devices will be required to relinquish Unreal Engine in favor of other engines. The effects will extend far beyond video games; it will affect developers who use Unreal Engine on Apple products in many areas.
Second, Epic will likely prevail over the merits of its antitrust claims. The publisher believes that Apple's conduct in itself constitutes illegal tying under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Apple has a complete monopoly on the market for the distribution of iOS applications via its dominant App Store, which distributes virtually all applications downloaded on iPhone and iPad. Apple conditions access to the App Store on a developer's promise to use DPI exclusively for all integrated content purchases in the application (and to pay a 30% commission on these transactions), forcing developers (who need access to the App Store for their applications to reach consumers on iOS devices) to accept DPI and Apple's concomitant higher commission, destroying competition in the market for payment processing in the iOS application according to Epic.
No comment from Apple
Apple declined to comment on the motion. A company spokesman pointed to a statement released by Apple last week, saying that Epic "had made the unfortunate decision to violate the App Store guidelines" and that it "would do everything possible to work with Epic to resolve these violations.
Apple seems to have come to Epic with every possible violation of the agreement it could find. The company cites not only the "Epic direct payment" feature (which is at the root of all this conflict) but also a lack of descriptiveness in Fortnite's application release notes, claiming that it was using too much of a "generic statement". Apple sent its warning letter on August 14, giving Epic until August 28 to make the changes.
Source: Epic's complaint