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Apple threatens to cut off Epic Games from iOS, Mac dev tools

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New court filing from Epic hopes to stop retaliatory move

Artwork of Fortnite Chapter 2 season 3 featuring new skins Image: Epic Games

Apple is threatening to terminate Epic Games’ access to develop for iOS, MacOS, and other Apple platforms, according to a new court filing from the Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer.

Epic calls the action a retaliatory move by Apple that “will reverberate well beyond video games” that “will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields.” Apple contends that Epic violated its Developer Program License Agreement when it released an update to Fortnite that bypassed the App Store’s payment processing system, and is giving Epic until Aug. 28 to address those violations.

After Epic Games filed suit against Apple for removing Fortnite from its App Store, “Apple notified Epic it was terminating Epic from the Apple Developer Program, blocking all Epic products from distribution through Apple’s App Store,” Epic said in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California. “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.”

Epic is now seeking an injunction to block Apple from terminating the Fortnite maker’s access to Apple’s development tools, saying that the move will impact developers who rely on the Unreal Engine:

Apple’s retaliation represents an existential threat to Epic’s Unreal Engine. OS providers like Apple routinely make certain software and developer tools available to software developers, for free or a small fee, to enable the development of software that will run on the OS. Apple intends to deny Epic access to that widely available material. Without that access, Epic cannot develop future versions of the Unreal Engine for use on iOS or macOS. Developers that intend to sell their apps for use on iOS or macOS devices will have to forgo the Unreal Engine in favor of other engines. The effects will reverberate well beyond video games; it will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields. 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. This is quintessential irreparable harm.

Reached for comment, an Apple spokesperson originally referred Polygon to a statement released last Thursday, after Epic filed suit against Apple. The company later provided the following statement:

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.

For more on Epic’s legal battle with Apple, and how Fortnite came between the two companies, read Polygon’s explainer.

Update (10:25 p.m. ET): This story has been updated with a new statement from Apple.