Epic Games vs Apple: the battle rages on

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Epic Games

There’s something very David and Goliath about the continuing legal feud between Fortnite publisher Epic Games and the seemingly all-powerful tech company that is Apple. The fight isn’t over yet, but David’s not looking too good down there. Today we round up the story so far.

On August 13, the highly-rated online game Fortnite got an update allowing players to pay Epic Games directly. Apple took issue with this because the move violated its terms of service, blocking it from its usual 30-percent cut of all in-app purchases. Apple pulled the game from its digital storefronts. This left Epic no choice but to retaliate with legal aid. The company filed for a restraining order against Apple which would allow it to put the game back on the App Store.

Epic is fighting Apple not just in the courts, but on the streets, too (figuratively speaking, of course). The developer launched a very clever public-relations campaign against Apple, spear-headed by the hashtag #FreeFortnite. Ecentralsports reported on the campaign here.

Epic’s attempts to return Fortnite to the App store have since been denied, lending Apple the early courtroom victory. Apple was, however, denied its request to remove every Epic Games title from the marketplace.

So Apple landed the first blow against Epic, but how has the little guy fared since?

Here’s the short on everything that’s happened in the dispute lately

On September 8, Apple went a step further in its defense of removing Fortnite, counter-suing Epic Games for punitive damages. Apple accused the developer of embarking on a plan of “commission-theft” by persuading gamers to purchase directly from the publisher in return for a discount on in-game currency. Apple will seek a judgement finding that Epic breached its developer contract, as well as monetary damages. A ruling is yet to be given.

On September 10, Epic announced that users would no longer be able to use Apple ID to sign on to any of their accounts when using the publisher’s games. This was an apparent off-the-cuff blow from Apple. In a notice on its website, Epic urged anyone using Apple ID to update their email address and password so they could continue to sign on.

On September 11, the ban was touted to come into effect. Epic provided an update on the situation. The publisher stated that Apple had provided an unlimited extension for gamers using the Apple ID. This would allow them to continue signing on as normal. Epic does, however, still expect the ban to come eventually. The company has urged people to prepare their email addresses and passwords for when this eventuality arrives.

Google was initially involved in the dispute, having removed Fortnite from the Google Play storefront. However, Google has since filed a report distancing it from the Epic vs Apple contention.

Apple also terminated Epic’s developer account. As a result, the developer can no longer publish games on the Apple platform. Moreover, Apple will not allow Epic to reapply for this licence for at least a year. This is a harsh move, and one against which Epic Games has already filed a preliminary injunction.

So it’s not looking good for Epic. But was it a losing battle to begin with?

Nobody likes a monopoly (well, except for the person or enterprise at the top), so it’s easy to see why spectators and developers alike are empathizing with the Epic Games cause. Epic’s argument stems from a desire for fairness and freedom, rallying for open-source and free competition in the gaming industry. These ideologies hold the interest of developers and consumers at heart. In fact, the music-streaming platform Spotify has already come out in support of Epic’s stand against Apple, bemoaning Apple’s “unfair practices” and its “abuse of dominant position”. 

But the hard truth of the matter is this: Epic violated Apple’s terms of service to begin with. This put the publisher in the wrong immediately. Being banned from a platform for breach of contract is not excessively punitive. For Epic to try and sue Apple after such a brazen first move was always going to be an uphill battle. It would take a very long pair of legs to keep up with one of the biggest companies in the world.

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