One of the latest developments in the ongoing Epic vs. Apple legal battle has turned the controversial antitrust lawsuit filed by Fortnite developer Epic Games into a public “he said, she said.” A recent legal filing from Apple reveals that Epic had originally reached out with a request to introduce features which would allow it, among other things, to circumvent Apple’s 30% fee on Fortnite microtransactions back in late-June. Despite Apple’s rejection of Epic’s request, Epic went ahead with its plan in August, which Apple characterizes in the legal filing as a “deliberate choice” Epic made to “cheat Apple.”
The way Apple presents Epic’s request from June characterizes the studio as expecting special treatment for its IP before enacting a “calculated decision to breach” the App Store’s policies when not given its way. But Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has spoken up on social media about what he refers to as a “misleading” characterization of Epic’s original request.
“Apple’s statement is misleading,” Sweeney stated in a tweet. “You can read my email in Apple’s filing, which is publicly available. I specifically said in Epic’s request to the Apple execs, ‘We hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers…'”
Apple’s statement is misleading. You can read my email in Apple’s filing, which is publicly available. I specifically said in Epic’s request to the Apple execs, “We hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers…” https://t.co/yRio08fPSy pic.twitter.com/HsqjApFQeo
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) August 21, 2020
Sweeney’s tweet also provides a screenshot of the email correspondence from June 30, sent from Tim Sweeney to Apple’s Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and Matt Fischer, with the subject line Consumer Choice & Competition.
In the email, Sweeney proposes a number of features Epic would like to offer consumers that “restrictions imposed by Apple” currently prevent, including competing payment processing options and an Epic Games Store app that could be downloaded through the iOS App Store. (Apple currently does not provide a way for iOS users to download apps that are not distributed via its official App Store.)
“Epic is requesting that Apple agree in principle to permit Epic to roll out these options for the benefits of all iOS customers,” the email states. “We hope that Apple will also make these options equally available to all iOS developers in order to make software sales and distribution on the iOS platform as open and competitive as it is on personal computers.”
Recently, Epic requested a temporary restraining order against Apple in an attempt to get Fortnite reinstated on the App Store until court proceedings have concluded. In response, Apple asked the judge to reject the request, claiming that Epic brought all “alleged injury” upon itself by knowingly breaching Apple’s terms of service. While the recent court filings reveal what many observers presumed–that Epic Games has had this plan in the works for a while–it didn’t reach the public eye until August 13, when Epic introduced its own third-party payment system for Fortnite’s iOS and Android versions, in direct violation of Apple and Google’s terms of service. This led to Apple and Google banning Fortnite from their digital storefronts, which led to Epic suing both companies for antitrust violations.
The outcome of Epic’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple (and Google) will have huge implications for mobile game developers–not just giants like Epic Games, but independent software creators as well. You can learn about the ins-and-outs of the ongoing legal feud between Epic, Apple, and Google in our explainer.
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