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Apple countersues Fortnite developer Epic Games for ‘cold-blooded’ circumvention

Epic Games’ conduct was ‘willful, brazen, and unlawful,’ Apple says in suit

a group of Fortnite characters standing around a treasure chest, with gold coins and other treasure in front of it and an erupting volcano in the background Image: Epic Games
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Apple filed a countersuit against Fortnite developer Epic Games on Tuesday. In its reply to Epic Games’ complaint for injunctive relief, Apple’s lawyers denied many of Epic Games’ claims and called the company’s conduct “willful, brazen, and unlawful.”

In August, Epic Games implemented a new payment system in Fortnite, designed to circumvent Apple’s own — and the 30% cut Apple takes with it. In response, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store, and Epic Games filed a lawsuit. A similar event played out with Google and its Google Play Store, too. Apple initially threatened to cut off Epic Games from its iOS and Mac developer tools entirely, including for Unreal Engine. The last time Epic Games and Apple were in court (via Zoom), Apple got a partial win: Apple can revoke access to Epic Games’ developer tools for Fortnite, but not Unreal Engine. For Epic Games, this was a partial win, too. The two companies will meet again on Sept. 28 for a hearing regarding the preliminary injunction.

“Epic’s lawsuit is nothing more than a basic disagreement over money,” Apple wrote in its 67-page response. “Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store.” Apple reported Epic Games has earned more than $600 million through the App Store.

Apple continued to assert the idea that Epic Games is looking for special treatment from Apple’s App Store rules, which implements fees for payments processed through the App Store. Apple called Epic Games’ “external payment runaround,” implemented via a “hotfix,” “cold-blooded” and “little more than theft.” It said Epic Games’ ensuing “Free Fortnite” campaign looked to twist the scenario into “retaliation” rather than Apple enforcing its contracted policies. Apple said it was part of Epic Games’ “self-serving narrative.”

The company also highlighted Epic Games’ business practices as in conflict with the narrative it’s created.

Apple continued: “Epic’s demand for special treatment and cries of ‘retaliation’ cannot be reconciled with its flagrant breach of contract and its own business practices, as it takes in billions by taking commissions on game developers’ sales and charging consumers up to $99.99 for bundles of ‘V-Bucks.’”

Epic Games has not responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

Apple and Epic Games are scheduled to meet in court on Sept. 28.