Apple is bullying game developers, Epic says in court filing

Apple's threat to revoke access to developer tools is an "unlawful effort to maintain its monopoly," the Fortnite maker says in its filing.

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Steven Musil
3 min read

Fortnite maker Epic Games accuses Apple of not playing fair.


Epic Games escalated its Fortnite legal battle with Apple over the weekend, accusing the iPhone maker of posing an unfair threat to game developers community. The charge, appearing in a filing submitted Sunday in a Northern California federal court, centers on Apple's threat to ban the Unreal Engine code it offers to outside game developers to help them make apps of their own.

The legal battle between the two companies stems from a dispute over collecting revenue from in-app purchases, resulting in Apple -- and Google -- removing the game from their app stores. Epic sued Apple, charging that it was threatening to revoke developer access to their tools. It also asked the court for a preliminary injunction in its pending legal battle with Apple, essentially allowing Fortnite back on the app store until the legal proceedings conclude.

Apple responded to the lawsuit on Friday by saying its actions are authorized by contracts, an assertion Epic disagrees with.

"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," Epic's complaint says, adding that Apple's actions have an unwarranted impact on developers not involved in the case.

"The breadth of Apple's retaliation is itself an unlawful effort to maintain its monopoly and chill any action by others who might dare oppose Apple," Epic's complaint goes on to say.

Epic's argument that developers would be unduly affected drew support from Microsoft .

"Denying Epic access to Apple's SDK and other development tools will prevent Epic from supporting Unreal Engine on iOS and macOS, and will place Unreal Engine and those game creators that have built, are building, and may build games on it at a substantial disadvantage," Kevin Gammill, Microsoft's general manager for gaming developer experiences, said in an accompanying declaring filed with the court on Sunday.

At the heart of the dispute is whether Epic has the right to include a direct-payments service in its Fortnite app, circumventing Apple's and Google's payments systems and the up to 30% charge Apple and Google levy on each transaction.

The iPhone maker responded, booting Fortnite and its more than 250 million players from its App Store, which prompted Epic to sue. Since then, iPhone and iPad users who have Fortnite installed on their phones can still play, but everyone else is no longer able to download the app.

Apple says the commission is fair and in line with fees charged by other companies, such as Google with its Play Store. But companies large and small increasingly disagree. And it's causing regulators to take a look at the issue.

Regulators in the US are investigating Apple and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering action. In a July congressional hearing on antitrust, Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked whether his company treats developers fairly and whether it retaliates against ones it doesn't like. "We do not retaliate or bully people," Cook said. "It's strongly against our company culture."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday's filing.