Should a US court reinstate Fortnite back on the iOS App Store?
According to Apple, the answer is no. On Friday, the company told a US court the whole controversy over Fortnite getting removed from the iOS App Store is entirely Epic Games’ own fault.
Cupertino made the argument as Epic Games is asking a judge to temporarily force Apple to reinstate Fortnite to the App Store until the antitrust feud between the two companies receives a ruling.
But according to Apple, Epic Games can easily defuse the whole matter —and still bring its antitrust lawsuit— if it simply chose to follow the iOS App Store rules. Instead, Epic Games is deliberately trying to “cheat” the system. “Epic now seeks emergency relief. But the ‘emergency’ is entirely of Epic’s own making,” Apple claimed in the court filing.
Last week, Cupertino decided to pull Fortnite from the iOS App Store after Epic added a direct payment method in the game, on top of the normal Apple-assisted payment route. The gaming company did so to protest Apple’s long-standing rule that requires all iOS app developers fork over a 30 percent cut of in-app purchases to the iPhone maker.
Although Epic Games is now demanding the court reinstate the game, Apple is warning that doing so risks upending the entire iOS ecosystem. That’s because 1.7 million other iOS developers could resort to the same tactic, and break the iOS app rules, but then ask a court to reinstate the app.
“If Epic’s conduct is successful, it would demonstrate to all developers that they can simply disregard their legal agreements with Apple,” the company said in the court filing.
The filing represents the first time Apple has responded in court to Epic Games’ antitrust lawsuit, which claims Cupertino has a monopoly over iOS app distribution. Apple disagrees and says it has no monopoly over software distribution; iOS is simply one platform, among several, which include gaming platforms from Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony and Google.
“It (Epic Games) conveniently ignores that Fortnite can be played on numerous platforms with or without support from Apple, even as Epic touts that fact in its advertising and communications to users,” Apple said in the filing.
Apple also provided the court emails Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney sent to the company about changing the rules to the iOS App Store. According to Apple, they show Epic Games allegedly sought a special deal starting on June 30th. Specifically, Sweeney requested Apple allow other competing payment options and a way for Epic Games to offer its own app store in the iOS ecosystem.
When Cupertino refused the request, citing security, Sweeney replied in a July 17th email that said “Epic is in a state of substantial disagreement with Apple’s policy and practices, and we will continue to pursue this, as we have done in the past to address other injustices in our industry.”
On August 13 —the day Fortnite added the direct payment option to game— Sweeney then sent another email indicating his company was ready to fight Apple in court “for many years” to change the iOS App Store rules.
According to Apple, the emails show Epic Games has no interest in returning to “the status quote.” “As its own correspondence with Apple makes clear, it seeks an exception to Apple’s policies, and a brand-new contractual relationship that Apple did not negotiate for and that no developer has ever had,” the company said.
However, Epic Games CEO is pointing out his company never sought a special access deal from Apple. Rather, he was hoping the iOS App Store would be made more open to all. In his email to Cupertino on June 30, Sweeney wrote: “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.”
The judge is set to hear Epic Games’ counter arguments on reinstating Fortnite on the iOS App Store this coming Monday.