Fortnite will not be returning to the iOS App Store anytime soon, according to a series of emails published on Twitter on Wednesday by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney.
Epic’s iOS developer account had been suspended as a result of the company’s intentional violations of the App Store guidelines in August 2020, which set the stage for the companies’ court battle. But in the wake of the ruling earlier this month, the state of Epic’s iOS apps — particularly Fortnite — has been unclear.
The emails published on Wednesday, both on Twitter and an Epic blog post, indicate Epic Games’ various apps are unlikely to return to the App Store for the foreseeable future. One letter published by Sweeney — dated September 21st and sent by lawyers representing Apple — informs the company that Apple will not reinstate Epic’s developer account until the appeals have been resolved, a process that could take years.
“Apple has exercised its discretion not to reinstate Epic’s developer program account at this time,” the email reads. “Furthermore, Apple will not consider any further requests for reinstatement until the district court’s judgment becomes final and non-appealable.”
The message accurately notes that Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, the judge in Epic v. Apple, concluded Apple is within its rights to terminate any Epic-related accounts it desires from the App Store. Epic has already paid financial damages for breaching its contract.
The appeals path for Epic v. Apple is still in flux. Epic has announced its intention to appeal the portions of the ruling it lost, although the higher court has not yet agreed to hear the case. Apple has stated that it’s still considering its options for legal appeal. Apple CEO Tim Cook, however, told employees after the ruling that he was “looking forward to moving forward” after the ruling.
Writing on Twitter, Sweeney framed Apple’s refusal as a betrayal of its earlier pledge to reinstate Epic Games once the company assented to follow the App Store guidelines.
“Apple lied,” Sweeney wrote. “Apple spent a year telling the world, the court, and the press they’d ‘welcome Epic’s return to the App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone else.’ Epic agreed, and now Apple has reneged in another abuse of its monopoly power over a billion users.”
Apple declined to comment on Sweeney’s tweets, but did not dispute the authenticity of the documents.
The decision appears to scuttle Epic’s attempt to return Fortnite to the iOS App Store in South Korea, which recently passed rules requiring alternate payment method support. It also leaves Fortnite’s future elsewhere in question. Epic had recently updated old copies of Fortnite on iOS remotely to remove V-Bucks purchasing options, theoretically putting it back in compliance with Apple’s rules. But without a working developer account, Epic can’t re-release the game in any country.
Still, the decision to publish the emails publicly shows that Sweeney is eager to keep pressure on Apple, even if it means keeping Fortnite off of iPhones. “We’ll fight on,” said Sweeney on Twitter. “The need for regulatory and legislative action is clearer than ever before.”
Late last night, Apple informed Epic that Fortnite will be blacklisted from the Apple ecosystem until the exhaustion of all court appeals, which could be as long as a 5-year process. pic.twitter.com/QCD7wogJef— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) September 22, 2021
9/22 1:29PM ET: Updated to include that Apple declined to comment.
9/22 2:20PM ET: Added link to Epic blog post.