In an unexpectedly brash move from the staid Cupertino tech behemoth, Apple has revoked the developer credentials for Epic Games after it refused to stop directing its users to circumvent Apple's fee-collecting payment channels for its popular Fortnite game.
"We are disappointed that we have had to terminate the Epic Games account on the App Store," Apple said in a statement. "We have worked with the team at Epic Games for many years on their launches and releases. The court recommended that Epic comply with the App Store guidelines while their case moves forward, guidelines they’ve followed for the past decade until they created this situation. Epic has refused."
A court order last week denied Epic’s motion to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite on the App Store.
However, the judge ruled that Apple couldn't terminate the developer account that Epic uses for Unreal Engine, after initially saying he was "inclined" a graphics technology that is used by many game developers. Apple said Friday that it would be complying with the judge's order, and the licensing of the unreal engine wouldn't be interrupted.
Part of Epic's strategy is to turn developers against Apple and Google parent Alphabet (which Epic is also suing) in an attempt to force them to drop their fees. Like they say: 'strength in numbers'.
The legal clash has angered some developers who complain that Apple’s App Store rules are unfair and that the company’s fees are too high. The backlash has also increased antitrust scrutiny of Apple, the world’s most valuable company.
"Apple is asking that Epic revert Fortnite to exclusively use Apple payments," Epic said in a statement. "Their proposal is an invitation for Epic to collude with Apple to maintain their monopoly over in-app payments on iOS, suppressing free market competition and inflating prices. As a matter of principle, we won’t participate in this scheme."
While we wait for Epic to respond, one Twitter user pointed out, they're already trolling Apple customer service, a move that is red meat for Epic founder Tim Sweeney's legion of fanboys
Epic is also directing its users to troll Apple's customer service: pic.twitter.com/yoXr425Rgs— erin griffith (@eringriffith) August 28, 2020
Always remember...this could easily backfire.
This could backfire! Apple's message is that this is an "emergency of Epic's own making" and I've seen some frustrated Fortnite fans repeating it, not wanting to be pulled into a business fight over fees.— erin griffith (@eringriffith) August 28, 2020
Because at the end of the day, the kids want their games, and they don't really understand the nuances of anti-trust law.
Did not fully grasp the ramification of the Apple/Epic fight til today. Since we already had Fortnite on my iPhone/iPad, thought we were good. But then today's new Marvel season hits, and it won't work on Apple stuff. Kids not happy, demanding Android devices. Wish I was kidding— Mike Shields (@digitalshields) August 28, 2020
And while it's important to keep in mind that this isn't an insignificant amount of money that they're battling over...
Most developers would never publicly criticize Apple because the company’s App Store is such a vital source of users and revenue. Epic is in a different situation because Fortnite is widely used beyond Apple’s platform. Still, losing access to the App Store will likely hurt Epic financially. Since January 2012, Epic mobile games have been downloaded more than 159 million times through the App Store, generating about $1.2 billion in consumer spending, with roughly $360 million of this going to Apple, according to estimates from Sensor Tower.
...Apple certainly has a lot to lose here. The bigger question is, is the risk as high for Epic?