Apple Escalates Feud With Epic, Promises to Cut Off Developer Tool Access

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Last week, Epic Games used Fortnite Mobile to force a confrontation with Apple and Google that resulted in the game being pulled from the App Store and Google Play. As Epic gears up for what could be a protracted legal battle, Apple is holding firm. In fact, the Cupertino company has now threatened to cut off Epic’s access to development tools, which could have ripple effects outside the mobile ecosystem. 

To recap, Epic released an updated version of Fortnite Mobile last week with direct payment options, a way of circumventing the 30 percent cut of each sale going to Apple or Google. Naturally, both companies removed the game for violating their developer policies. According to Epic’s updated legal filings, Apple has informed the company that it has two weeks to address the issue or it will lose access to Apple’s developer tools on iOS, macOS, and other Apple platforms. 

Epic says this is a retaliatory move and more evidence of Apple’s ongoing abuse of its monopoly. That’ll be up to the courts to decide, but in the meantime, Epic’s Unreal Engine could suffer. Without Apple developer tools, Epic won’t be able to produce new versions of the Unreal Engine optimized for iOS and macOS. Epic isn’t the only company using Unreal, which powers dozens of recent games on multiple platforms. That could delay updates or force developers to use other engines entirely. 

The amended filing asks the court to issue an injunction that prevents Apple from cutting off access to these necessary developer tools. That is in addition to Epic’s demand that Apple reinstate Fortnite. It’s unlikely Apple will simply cave, though. Allowing Epic to ignore App Store policy would necessitate changes — Apple is very big on maintaining a “level playing field” that also coincidentally allows it to make a lot of money. If Epic gets away with breaking the rules, everyone is going to want to skip the Apple sales commission. 

Google hasn’t taken any actions beyond removing Fortnite from the Play Store. However, Android allows users to sideload APK files. So, Android gamers can still grab Fortnite directly from Epic and give their money directly to the developer. That makes the case against Google a bit less high-stakes, but Apple is doing its best to ramp up the tech drama to protect its walled garden.

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