October 12, 2020: Federal judge gives Apple permission to keep Fortnite off the App Store
Epic Games filed a second motion against Apple on August 28, trying to prevent its development tools being revoked. This injunction comes after Apple and Google took action against Epic Games by removing Fortnite from their app stores. What this means is that you are only able to play Fortnite on your mobile if you have it installed or have downloaded it previously. It is no longer available on Google Play or the App Store.
Apple decided to take action against Fortnite because the latest update included a workaround allowing players to spend less money to get V-bucks. The cheaper V-bucks bypassed the 30% pay cut that Apple and Google take for any microtransactions, as you can buy them directly from Epic. However, it violates Google Play and the App Store’s terms and conditions, so both Google and Apple decided to remove Fortnite from its stores.
In retaliation to Apple removing Fortnite from the App Store, Epic released a short animation parodying the famous 1984 Macintosh Super Bowl advert and prepared for action with a 63-page lawsuit filed against Apple and filed one against Google after they followed in Apple’s footsteps.
Everything we know about why Apple blocked Fortnite
Epic’s legal request asking for Apple to reinstate Fortnite back on the App Store has been denied by a federal judge. Apple has been given permission to continue blocking Fortnite, however they are not allowed to block Epic’s developer accounts as that would punish developers using the Unreal Engine.
Epic’s trial against Apple will resume in federal court on May 3, 2021 according to the schedule set by US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. As of yet, Judge Rogers has not shown whether she leans either way in the case, and has ruled for and against both companies in the past.
Epic and Apple have conferred privately and both parties have agreed Epic’s claims and Apple’s counterclaims should be tried by the court, and not by a jury. Apple originally wanted a trial by jury when it first filed its counterclaim, but both parties have since decided a trial by the court will suffice.
Epic Games has been granted a temporary restraining order for having its development tools revoked by Apple. The court order does not undo the decision taken by Apple to remove Fortnite from the store, but it does mean that the Unreal Game engine is safe, and so are the numerous developers who use it.
The temporary restraining order will remain in place until an order has been issued on the motion for the preliminary injunction. The hearing is scheduled on September 28, giving us a month to digest what has happened and what could happen when the multi-billion dollar companies battle in court.
Ruling came down tonight! As expected, the TRO is granted with respect to “any affiliate of Epic Games” (in other words, Unreal Engine) but not granted with respect to Fortnite. pic.twitter.com/dy7IgKc2Ck
— sarah jeong (@sarahjeong) August 25, 2020
At the temporary restraining order hearing, the court explains why Epic was granted the order and what impact it would have on the industry. The order said, “Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders.”
Revoking Epic’s development tools would see mass panic across the games industry as developers would have no choice but to move away from the Unreal Engine. Even existing games would be in trouble as there would no longer be support for updating games using the Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS.
Microsoft has decided to throw its hat into the ring, by filing a statement of support for Epic’s restraining order against Apple. The statement says “Epic Games’ Unreal Engine is critical technology for numerous game creators including Microsoft.”
The statement clarifies the impact Apple will have if they are successful in blocking Epics’ access to SDK development tools. “Denying Epic access to Apple’s SDK and other development tools 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.”
This statement explains how detrimental it will be for Epic if Apple is left unchallenged with its decision to revoke Epic’s development licences. Microsoft explains it will have to choose between abandoning customers on iOS and macOS or choosing a different game engine when developing games.
On August 17, Epic games filed a second motion against Apple. This legal document calls for a temporary restraining order to prevent Apple from limiting, suspending, or terminating any Epic entity from Apple’s developer program. It turns out that Apple didn’t just stop with removing Fortnite from the App Store, it also targeted Epic’s Unreal Engine.
“Less than twelve hours later (from Fortnite’s removal), Apple notified Epic it was terminating Epic from the Apple Developer Program, blocking all Epic products from distribution through Apple’s App Store. Apple specifically stated it would terminate Epic’s access to development tools, including those necessary for Epic to keep offering the world’s most popular graphics engine, the Unreal Engine.”
Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store and has informed Epic that on Friday, August 28 Apple will terminate all our developer accounts and cut Epic off from iOS and Mac development tools. We are asking the court to stop this retaliation. Details here: https://t.co/3br1EHmyd8
— Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) August 17, 2020
What this means for the gaming world is that Apple plan on blocking Epic from maintaining iOS and macOS support on their Unreal Engine. This would cause a lot of developers to rethink which game engine to choose when creating a game, as eventually Unreal will no longer be supported on iOS.
This has an even larger effect than you might think. Any developer that is currently using Unreal Engine now faces serious problems maintaining and supplying its game on the App Store unless this issue is solved. Games like PUBG Mobile may also vanish from the App Store if Epic is not able to keep its game engine in line with Apple’s OS.
Epic games stuck a deal with OnePlus to make Epic games available on its phones through an Epic Games application. The app would allow users to install and update Epic games without the obstacles imposed by Google. Google forced OnePlus to back out of the deal because of the Epic Games app bypassing the Google Play Store.
Epic Games believes that Google has a monopolistic hold on the Android market and believes the only way to achieve change is to file a lawsuit.
The lawsuit says “In 1998, Google was founded as an exciting young company with a unique motto: ‘Don’t Be Evil’. Google’s Code of Conduct explained that this admonishment was about ‘how we serve our users’ and ‘much more than that… it’s also about doing the right thing more generally’. Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought, and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize.”
Google banned Fortnite for the same reason as Apple. The latest mobile update allowed players to forgo the 30% transaction fee Google takes on all purchases on Google Play, violating its terms and conditions. A spokesperson from Google said Epic would be welcomed back if they followed the rules. However, Android users can still get their hands on Fortnite directly from Epic itself.
As part of its plan to take on the monopolised App Store, Epic is rallying its troops to put pressure on the multi-trillion-dollar conglomerate to reinstate Fortnite onto the App Store. Epic released the hashtag ‘FreeFortnite’ to raise awareness that Apple has removed the game from the store, as this makes it difficult for Epic to update Fortnite on iOS going forward.
Fortnite has decided to take on Apple in a legal dispute over how Apple has monopolised and controlled the very industry it set out to free. The lawsuit details how Apple deploys anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices to put the industry in a chokehold.
The injunction says “Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.”
The lawsuit filed aims “to end Apple’s unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion-dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market.”
In layman’s terms, Epic believes Apple has crossed the line with how it controls and taxes developers on its platform. Epic wants to see a free market where developers and consumers aren’t “extortionately taxed” for supplying applications on iOS devices.
In 1984, Apple released a Super Bowl commercial depicting IBM as a controlling monopoly with a chokehold over the computing market. Apple presented its new computer, the Macintosh, as the answer to the problem of a single conglomerate dominating the market. Fast forward 36 years and Epic claims that Apple has become the very thing it set out to destroy. If you want to see the original advert, you can do so on YouTube.
Apple decided to take action against Epic Games because of Fortnite’s recent update that allowed you to purchase V-bucks directly from Epic. This resulted in Apple losing its 30% cut from all microtransactions on the App Store. In retaliation, Apple banned Fortnite from the App Store because it violates Apple’s terms and conditions.
What once started out as a fight between two multi-billion-dollar companies, has quickly turned into a fight for far more than just a 30% tax on IAPs. If Apple wins, any game using the Unreal Engine will quickly vanish from the App Store, unlikely to return. If Epic wins, then the mobile gaming market on both iOS and Android devices will change forever, allowing greater for competitive diversity and the increased consumer value that often comes with that competition.
Whatever happens in the next few weeks or months, you may want to bookmark this page as we will keep you up to date with one of the biggest issues facing mobile gaming to date.