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Apple fires back at Epic lawsuit, saying Fortnite maker asked for ‘special deal’

‘Developers who work to deceive Apple [...] are terminated,’ Apple says

Two of Fortnite’s summer skins posing Image: Epic Games
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Apple has responded, in court, to Epic Games’ lawsuit against the company over Fortnite’s removal from Apple’s App Store. In a filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple says that “having decided that it would rather enjoy the benefits of the App Store without paying for them, Epic has breached its contracts with Apple, using its own customers and Apple’s users as leverage.”

The filing, reported by The Verge, is Apple’s response to a suit filed by Epic last week alleging anti-competitive practices by Apple. After Epic published an updated version of Fortnite for the App Store on Aug. 13 — an update that bypassed Apple’s standard payment process (thereby cutting Apple out of a portion of revenue from Fortnite sales) — Apple pulled the battle royale game from its digital store. Epic responded by both filing suit and taking its fight with Apple to the court of public opinion, holding an in-game event that mocked Apple and positioned the company as an oppressive monopoly.

Apple then threatened to cut off Epic’s access to its developer tools, blocking the Fortnite and Unreal Engine developer from the iOS, iPadOS, and Mac OS platforms. Epic then sought an injunction to prevent Apple from terminating its Apple Developer Program accounts, saying that such a move would “reverberate well beyond video games” and “affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields.”

Apple responded Friday, saying, “In the wake of its own voluntary actions, Epic now seeks emergency relief. But the ‘emergency’ is entirely of Epic’s own making.” Apple added:

Developers who work to deceive Apple, as Epic has done here, are terminated. So when Epic willfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a “hotfix” into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy.

The Verge reported that Apple executive Phil Schiller says Epic CEO Tim Sweeney asked for a “special deal” for Epic that would “fundamentally change the way in which Epic offers apps on Apple’s iOS platform.” Apple declined, leading to Epic making a change to payment processing in Fortnite last week.

In its filing, Apple reiterated that it will welcome Fortnite back on the App Store if the game adheres to the company’s rules:

Apple wants Epic on iOS. Apple wants customers to have access to the games they love from Epic and every other developer. What’s more, the success of Epic and so many other developers is exactly what Apple hoped for more than ten years ago when it opened the doors of the App Store. But Epic’s success does not entitle it to have this Court step in and remedy the harm it knowingly created, nor is there any legal basis for that. If Epic is looking for immediate relief for its customers, it can remove its “hotfix,” continue to comply with the contracts it signed and that apply to everyone else, and go on to pursue its legal challenge in this Court.

For now, Epic isn’t backing down. On Thursday, Epic announced an in-game tournament called the #FreeFortnite Cup, promoting it as the last tournament to include all of Fortnite’s mobile players — and giving away anti-Apple rewards to winners and participants.

Update (5:47 p.m. EDT): On Twitter, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney took issue with Apple’s characterization of Epic’s request, calling the statement “misleading.” Sweeney posted a copy of an email he sent to top Apple executives on June 30, in which he requested the addition of “competing payment processing options other than Apple payments, without Apple’s fees, in Fortnite and other Epic Games software” and “a competing Epic Games Store app available through the iOS App Store.” Sweeney said in his email that Epic hopes “that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers.”

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