Epic says Apple threatens ‘catastrophic’ response in two weeks if Fortnite doesn’t comply with rules

Image by Epic Games

Epic says that Apple has threatened to cut off its access to all iOS and Mac developer tools as retaliation for sneaking a new payment option into Fortnite last week — a stunt that ended in the app being banned from the App Store and Epic filing a blockbuster antitrust lawsuit against Apple, claiming it places illegal restrictions on the distribution of iOS apps.

Apple will terminate Epic’s inclusion in the Apple Developer Program, a membership that’s necessary to distribute apps on iOS devices or use Apple developer tools, if the company does not “cure your breaches” to the agreement within two weeks, according to a letter from Apple that was shared by Epic. Epic won’t be able to notarize Mac apps either, a process that could make installing Epic’s software more difficult or block it altogether. Apple requires that all apps are notarized before they can be run on newer versions of macOS, even if they’re distributed outside the App Store.

Epic has filed for a preliminary injunction against Apple, asking the court to stop the company from cutting it off. Epic says it will be “irreparably harmed long before final judgment comes” if it does not obtain the injunction. “Apple’s actions will irreparably damage Epic’s reputation among Fortnite users and be catastrophic for the future of the separate Unreal Engine business,” Epic writes. Epic also asks for Fortnite — with its lowered prices and alternate payment option — to be returned to the App Store.

Apple declined to comment on the motion. A spokesperson for the company pointed to a statement Apple released last week, saying that Epic “took the unfortunate step of violating the App Store guidelines” and that it would “make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations.”

Cutting Epic out of the developer program entirely would be a significant escalation in an already high-stakes battle. The developer program is the gateway to publishing apps on Apple’s platforms, and the ubiquity of Epic’s Unreal Engine could lead to problems that reach far beyond Epic itself. The Unreal Engine is a hugely popular free-to-start game engine that’s widely used by developers. Many games inside Apple’s own Apple Arcade subscription service rely on the Unreal Engine, and theoretically, those developers would struggle to build new iOS games or create updates if Apple cuts off access to the software.

It’s hard to know exactly how damaging the move would be (the tools would still be available on Windows), but Epic paints it as grandiose and dire. “The cascading effect of losing ongoing Unreal Engine compatibility will threaten the viability of the engine and disrupt development of a constellation of apps and uses that rely on its graphics to render hundreds of video games, the human brain, Baby Yoda and space flight,” the company writes in the motion today.

Apple seems to have come at Epic with every possible violation of the agreement it could find. The company cites not just the “Epic direct payment” feature — which kicked off this whole conflict — but also a lack of descriptiveness in Fortnite’s app update notes, saying it used too much of a “generic statement.” Apple sent its warning letter on August 14th, giving Epic until August 28th to make the changes.

Comments

This is what they wanted, isn’t it?

Actually I think they wanted to draw attention to the fact that iOS only lets you install apps from the App Store, and they kind of want the freedom to allow users to install apps from other sources, maybe even install competing app stores on iPhones, like Samsung does on Android.
That would bring competition into iOS devices, and at this point it’s probably only a matter of time until the EU forces Apple to do so.
Still, this is a long battle in the making and these giant companies will fight till the end for our money. Gonna be a wild ride.

Actually I think they wanted to draw attention to the fact that iOS only lets you install apps from the App Store, and they kind of want the freedom to allow users to install apps from other sources, maybe even install competing app stores on iPhones, like Samsung does on Android.

If that’s true, why did Google ban them as well?

Both Google and Apple are wrong.

But at least on Android you can still install it.

Epic is no saint either. This is purely about increasing profits.

We don’t need to care about the incentives at work to care about our desired outcome.

Because Google wants to maintain the duopoly.

This is the right time to re-launch Windows phone as the gamer’s (Xbox branded) phone.

Yeah, THE only entity coming out of this clean is Microsoft "hey! you can do what you want on Windows!".
Apple? This is going to hurt sales if to play fortnite/other games, you’ve got to sideload on Android
Google? At least you CAN sideload, this might be their defense, but the first time someone downloads ‘free fortnite+cheats’ hack, gets little Timmy’s credit card (their parents) drained, it’s going to be on Google "why didn’t you DO something to stop this?"
Fortnite players "we can’t play fortnite on the phone/tablets no more? /waaaa"
Servers at every restaurant now having to put up with kids running riot in the restaurant because they’re not distracted by playing Fortnite (and Minecraft’s a kiddies game!)
ALL the Unreal Engine licensees "EPIC!?!?! WTF DID YOU DO THAT FOR?!?!" (and probably the angle Apple’s going for here, having every Unreal licensee screaming at Epic for kicking of this war isn’t going to be healthy "did you /really/ have to do that ad? Really? Why not just dig up Jobs and dangle him like a puppet outside the NY Apple Store if you /really/ wanted to annoy Apple".

This is going to be one of those lessons taught in business school for decades to come. "if you’re the weaker party in negotiations, you don’t have the law on your side, you don’t have the money on your side, they have bigger/better lawyers, no need to settle, there’s others offering a similar product as you and happy to take your business, they want to send a warning to anyone else who’d even try to do the same thing, don’t do it, just don’t.".

Google? At least you CAN sideload, this might be their defense, but the first time someone downloads ‘free fortnite+cheats’ hack, gets little Timmy’s credit card (their parents) drained, it’s going to be on Google "why didn’t you DO something to stop this?"

Same problem applies to Windows

Well, with all the malware sneaking to Google store it might not be any worse than the status quo

the freedom to allow users to install apps from other sources, maybe even install competing app stores on iPhones, like Samsung does on Android.
That would bring competition into iOS devices,

Famously the ability to sideload apps has created strong competition in the sale of Android apps, so much so that even Epic gave up on distributing arguably the most popular game in history outside the Play Store.

Epic didn’t give up distributing it themselves.

Epic Store has been available has a sideload all along.

Making it available on the Play Store was all intents and purposes giving up, they themselves said:

After 18 months of operating Fortnite on Android outside of the Google Play Store, we’ve come to a basic realization, Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage, through technical and business measures such as scary, repetitive security pop-ups for downloaded and updated software, restrictive manufacturer and carrier agreements and dealings, Google public relations characterizing third party software sources as malware, and new efforts such as Google Play Protect to outright block software obtained outside the Google Play store."

They can say whatever they want but we all know the reason they put it on the Play Store is because it opens the game up to millions of people that would never go hunting down their crappy "App Store" and bother to install it.

Another case where Epic needs Google way more than Google needs Epic.

Obviously there are lots of security warnings when you install things off the Play Store. You are taking your security into your own hands and if you get hacked or malware then your platform owner is absolved of responsibility. Yep, it should be scary for average people to do.

That Google also found a security issue on their sideloaded installer at first too, only makes Epic look worse in this whole situation. Google’s going to be able to mount an effective defense "it’s as an option, sure, we also help people trying to develop for Android, heck, look, we found a problem for them, helped them fix it, and still let them run it outside our store. In the end, they figured it was safer/easier/more secure/better for their customers to use our services, but they made that decision, we never strong armed them, and we think we treat them very fairly, heck, far more than apple. At least we don’t stop other app stores, in fact, look at ALL these other app stores…. so… this is on Epic!".

I can’t see how Epic thought they’d have a cat in hell’s chance here. Did they really think all these 12 year olds were going to start writing to their congressman demanding Apple open up their store or something?

That’s not true. It’s not easy to sideload and you get a lot of warning messages about the dangers and security risks of sideloading. Google goes out of your way to make it hard so unless you are tech savvy, you will be scared off. Just saying installing some software is a security risk will scare off buyers.

It’s not hard at all. If you download an APK and start installing it, you are taken directly to the setting to enable to install it.

There are a bunch of security warnings. Why shouldn’t there be?

Because they’re intentionally daft. Google runs all kinds of sophisticated analysis within Chrome to help protect you while navigating the web. They don’t alert you every time you navigate away from a Google domain, only when going somewhere potentially dangerous.

Google could check whether an APK is signed. Microsoft provides a tool for Windows SDK: SignTool. This allows a user to install something outside of the Microsoft Store and still have a decent experience.

Actually I think they wanted to draw attention to the fact that iOS only lets you install apps from the App Store…

Gosh… like the way it’s been for the last 12 years?

I don’t own a single Apple product and don’t generally agree with how they do things… but in this case, I’m actually rooting for them. They developed the platform and Epic signs a contract agreeing to follow the rules previously set, it’s not like it’s something new to them. Unless there was a change between that agreement and now, I don’t see how Apple is in the wrong. Am I the only one seeing it this way? Apple made the most successful app store available, I don’t see them changing ways soon.

Geez, I hope you’re the only one seeing it this way. I think we should all want more choice and reduced costs.

There’s 3 entities involved in this dispute: Epic, Apple, and the Consumer. I could care less what Epic and Apple want, but I want to pay less and get more for it. Whoever gets me that, is the one that should win.

This won’t reduce costs though. This will just let Epic, if they were to win, replace the App Store with their own and cut apple out of the equation which would be bad. This is about credit buying for fortnite stuff. The discount as it stands only applies to buying the credits not using them.

It does reduce costs.

If I buy 1000 VBucks without using Apple’s infrastructure it’s $10. Without their infrastructure it is $8. That’s reduced cost for me, and Epic has to run their payment system anyway so there’s no real significant cost for them to run it themselves.

Of course that presumes that once Epic has cut out all other IAP systems they don’t raise their price, or inflate the VBuck price of items.

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