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Microsoft backs Epic Games in legal dispute with Apple

As the legal dispute between Epic Games and Apple rages on, some other notable names have started to choose sides.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

August 24, 2020

4 Min Read

As the legal dispute between Epic Games and Apple rages on, some other notable names have started to choose sides. Over the weekend, Microsoft filed a statement in support of Epic because of Apple's decision to prevent Epic from accessing to its development tools. 

This all began when Epic updated Fortnite on iOS to let players make direct payments and bypass Apple's platform fees.

After some legal wrangling related to that Fortnite update, Apple eventually told Epic it would be removing its access to the Apple SDK by August 28 -- meaning it will no longer be possible for developers using Unreal Engine to support Apple platforms.

Microsoft has now slammed that decision, which it claims will ultimately harm lots of developers by forcing them to decide between "abandoning [their] customers and potential customers own the iOS and macOS platforms, or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games."

Outlining the company's position in a legal statement shared online, Microsoft's general manager for gaming developer experiences, Kevin Gammill, said Apple's decision has placed some of its own titles under immediate threat. 

"Microsoft has an enterprise-wide, multi-year Unreal Engine license agreement and has invested significant resources and engineer time working with and customizing Unreal Engine for its own games on PC, Xbox consoles, and mobile devices (including iOS devices)," wrote Gammill.

"For example, Microsoft’s racing game Forza Street is currently available on iOS and utilizes Unreal Engine. 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."

Although Epic has filed a court motion attempting to block Apple from following through with its decision, Microsoft claims the threat of being unable to support Unreal Engine titles on Apple platforms is already causing damage. 

"Even uncertainty about the Unreal Engine's ability to continue supporting iOS and macOS will make it less likely for Microsoft (and, I believe, other game creators) to select Unreal Engine for their products," continued Gammill.

"When game creators are planning development projects, which can last for years, it is important to have confidence that the chosen engine will continue to be available on and support all platforms on which the game creators plan to distribute their games. Apple’s discontinuation of Epic’s ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers."

Apple, meanwhile, continues to argue that the dispute is one of Epic's own making, and that the developer could solve the problem whenever it likes.

"In the wake of its own voluntary actions, Epic now seeks emergency relief. But the ‘emergency’ is entirely of Epic’s own making," reads the most recent Apple statement. 

“Epic's agreements with Apple expressly spell out that if an app developer violates the rules of the App Store or the license for development tools--both of which apply and are enforced equally to all developers large and small -- Apple will stop working with that developer. Developers who work to deceive Apple, as Epic has done here, are terminated."

This is all the very very latest in an increasingly complicated back and forth between Apple and Epic, so for the full picture it’s best to read our past coverage on each incident. As a refresher:  

Epic Games updated Fortnite to include a payment method that bypassed the usual platform fees taken out of in-app purchases. (Details here)

Apple fired back that afternoon by pulling Fornite from the App Store, claiming the payment scheme and update violated its App Store Guidelines. (Details here)

Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple arguing its App Store policies were unlawful and anti-competitive. (Details here.)

Apple informed Epic that its access to developer tools would end on August 28, jeopardizing Epic’s ability to run and maintain Unreal Engine on Apple platforms and for MacOS and iOS development. (Details here)

Epic responded, asking the court for an injunction to protect it from what it says is retaliation from Apple: “Not content simply to remove Fortnite from the App Store, Apple is attacking Epic’s entire business in unrelated areas.” (Details here)

Epic also announced an in-game Fortnite tournament themed around its grievances with Apple, and encouraged its userbase to voice their complaints to Apple via social media. (Details here)

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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