Apple and Epic escalate their feud over Fortnite (Update: Apple statement)

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Update, August 18, 2020 (4AM ET): Apple has now responded to Epic Games in a statement to The Verge.

Apple says it “very much� wants to keep Epic on the Apple Developer Program but that it won’t make an exception for the studio in lieu of its customer protection guidelines.

Read the full statement by Apple to The Verge below:

The App Store is designed to be a safe and trusted place for users and a great business opportunity for all developers. Epic has been one of the most successful developers on the App Store, growing into a multibillion dollar business that reaches millions of iOS customers around the world. We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.

Epic Games, according to The Information, is also set to rope in a number of other companies in what the publication’s calling a “coalition of Apple critics.� Epic has reportedly approached Spotify and Sonos, but it’s not yet clear if either company has joined the game developer’s fight.

Original article, August 17, 2020 (3:49 PM ET): Apple and Epic Games are intensifying their fight over Fortnite and App Store policies.

Apple has warned Epic that it’s shutting down the developer’s accounts on August 28, when it will also lose access to iOS and Mac developer tools. In response, Epic has filed a motion with a federal court in California asking for a temporary restraining order to prevent Apple from shutting down the accounts, disabling Fortnite on users’ devices and removing Fortnite from the App Store.

Epic is likely to face “irreparable harm� without the order, the company’s attorneys told the court. It also claimed that it was “likely to succeed� in its antitrust lawsuit against Google and that it was in the “public interest.� Millions of players would be cut off, Epic said, while this reportedly wouldn’t hurt Apple while the lawsuit was underway.

We’ve asked Apple for comment.

Read more: Here’s how much Apple earned from Fortnite

Epic also sued Google for removing Fortnite from the Play Store, but has yet to allege similar retaliation. Unlike with Apple devices, Epic can still provide Fortnite to Android users outside of the platform’s official store.

It’s not certain that Epic will get the order. The company knowingly violated App Store policies by offering a direct payment method for in-game Fortnite purchases rather than relying solely on Apple’s system, and had both a lawsuit and a marketing campaign ready to go when Fortnite was inevitably removed from the store. Apple may argue that it has the power to take action against developers that break its rules, particularly when the violations are intentional.

Whether or not Epic succeeds in obtaining an order, this newest legal move could draw further attention to Apple’s approach. Politicians in the US and elsewhere are concerned Apple might be abusing its control of iOS app distribution to increase its revenues and thwart competitors, and those officials could take a closer look if there are retaliation claims — whether they’re merited or not.

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