Microsoft says that Apple’s punishments against Epic will hurt game developers and players

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Microsoft is taking sides in the court battle between Epic Games and Apple. As you might recall, Epic added a screen to its hit game Fortnite that allows players, even those who installed the game from the App Store, to pay for in-app purchases from the developer’s own in-app payment system. Payments made through Epic’s own payment system bypass Apple’s system from which the tech giant takes a cut of 30%. The so-called 30% Apple Tax is being investigated by regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Europe who will determine whether it is anticompetitive.

Microsoft sides with Epic in a declaration filed in court

For now though, the battle between Apple and Epic is solely over whether Apple has the right to punish Epic by removing Fortnite from the App Store and closing Epic’s developer account. That will leave it unable to provide updates to iOS and Mac users although those who have already installed the game on their iPhone can continue to play. Apple says that it will allow the game to return and give the developer its account back, but only if Epic shuts its in-app payment portal. Epic has sued and seeks a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would block Apple from removing Fortnite and closing Epic’s developer accounts until the issue can be adjudicated.

According to CNBC, Microsoft filed a declaration with the court on Sunday in which a Microsoft senior engineer said that closing Epic’s developer account would prevent it from offering its Unreal Engine. The latter is a game engine for developers and is a framework for the creation of 3D graphics. It is licensed to game developers in return for 5% of sales although that fee is waived if a game is published in the Epic Game Store. Starting last May, Epic waived its portion of the fees for games developed in Unreal Engine until a developer earns his first million dollars. A declaration is a written statement sworn to be true under penalty of perjury by any person who has knowledge about the issues in a court case.

Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager for Gaming Developer Experiences, said in the declaration that “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. Gammill went on to say that, “Apple’s discontinuation of Epic’s ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers.” And the Microsoft GM points out that there are very few alternative gaming engines with the same functionality and the large number of features. 

Epic says that the punishments imposed by Apple will produce an impact affecting more than the Unreal Engine. Epic’s vice president of engineering, Nicholas Penwarden, says that the developer has received “numerous inquiries and expressions of concern” from companies that have licensed the Unreal Engine.

Besides filing the suit against Apple, Epic has filed a similar suit against Google. The latter’s Android app storefront, the Google Play Store, also takes a 30% cut of in-app payments for Google. The difference is that while iOS users are locked into using the App Store to find and install apps, Android users are allowed to sideload apps from third party app stores.

Apple’s strategy in court is to show that Epic has created this problem by itself and that it can be easily fixed by following the agreement that Apple has all developers sign. Apple has threatened to close Epic’s development account on August 28th. On the same date, the developer will lose access to iOS and Mac developer tools.

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