Apple is now employing more aggressive tactics against Fortnite developer Epic Games, which filed a lawsuit against the iPhone maker last week after it removed Fortnite from its App Store. Epic announced on Monday that Apple recently informed the company it will disable Epic’s development accounts on August 28, effectively preventing the company from continuing work on its popular Unreal Engine, a tool used by thousands of developers, for iOS and Mac.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment by VICE Games. Epic also had not responded to a request for clarification on its conversations with Apple.
In response, Epic announced it’s asking the courts to step in and stop Apple, and publicly released the legal papers outlining its argument.
“Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas,” reads the legal filing.
This back-and-forth between Epic and Apple was a war of words until last Thursday, when Epic updated Fortnite on the App Store with the ability to purchase the in-game currency of Fortnite, V-Bucks, directly from Epic. This was against App Store policy, but if you paid Epic instead of Apple, players could purchase the V-Bucks for cheaper. Importantly, it allowed Epic to get around the royalty structure where Apple receives a 30% cut of everything sold.
This dynamic governs most digital storefronts, including the App Store.
Apple quickly removed Fortnite from the App Store, prompting Epic to reveal it was suing Apple over anti-competitive concerns. Epic took the same steps on the Google Play Store, and Google also removed Fortnite. The developer then also filed a lawsuit against Google.
Epic's Monday filing characterizes Apple’s decision as “an existential threat to Epic’s Unreal Engine” that would prevent future updates to Unreal Engine and hurt developers in the process.
“The effects will reverberate well beyond video games; it will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields,” continues the filing. “The ensuing impact on the Unreal Engine’s viability, and the trust and confidence developers have in that engine, cannot be repaired with a monetary award.”
Even though Fortnite has been removed from the App Store, it’s still playable. Apple could, in theory, remove the app from people’s devices, but it has declined to take that step. But because Fortnite is a multiplayer-driven experience where most of the appeal is playing with friends and seeing what new stuff Epic adds to the game, Fortnite is in a bad place on iOS.
The way Fortnite works, players are matched up with other players using the same version of the game. The moment Fortnite is updated past what’s available on iOS, they will no longer be matched up with people outside the iOS ecosystem. They’ll get left behind.
“Existing iOS users are doomed to obsolescence within weeks,” reads the filing.