Microsoft backs Epic’s Unreal Engine development in Apple fight

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A Fortnite Mobile splash screen.

  • The development of Unreal Engine could come under threat in Epic Games’ legal spat with Apple.
  • Unreal Engine is essential for a number of game developers across iOS.
  • Microsoft has expressed its support for Epic to continue developing Unreal Engine on iOS.

Microsoft has issued a statement of support for Epic Games, explaining that the loss of Unreal Engine support on iOS would “harm game creators and gamers.”

The statement comes after Epic Games filed a document on Sunday (via The Verge), which warns that Apple’s potential removal of Epic Games’ developer privileges from iOS and MacOS could affect its development of Unreal Engine and therefore come at the cost of third-parties not directly involved in the legal battle.

“If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games,” says Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager for Gaming Developer Experiences.

Gammill says withdrawing Epic’s developer privileges to Apple’s developer kit will leave Unreal Engine — and the games reliant on it — without updates, bug fixes, security patches, or the ability to utilize new features on iOS and MacOS.

Microsoft currently employs Unreal Engine in Forza Street, its mobile racing game on iOS. It’s also seemingly the first heavyweight to express support for Epic, albeit what seems only for its own game development needs.

Microsoft has an “enterprise-wide, multi-year Unreal Engine license agreement and has invested significant resources and engineer time” on Unreal Engine. It’s in Microsoft’s best interest for Epic to continue developing its game engine. Microsoft’s statement does not weigh-in on Fortnite’s removal from the App Store, or Epic’s gripe against Apple’s alleged App Store monopoly.

Epic has asked the court to ensure its access to Apple’s SDKs, APIs, and other tools are not terminated, but it’s not yet clear if its request will be granted. The game developer argues that its access to these tools, and Fortnite’s violation of App Store policies, are governed by separate agreements.

“Apple has alleged a breach of only one such agreement, and that agreement does not govern Epic’s access to developer tools for the Unreal Engine, the distribution of apps that are used for development purposes by Unreal Engine licensees or various other Epic Developer Program accounts,” states Epic in its filing.

Next: iPhones with pre-installed Fortnite are being resold for as high as $10,000!

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