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Microsoft back Epic's fight to not get booted off Apple devices

Screenshot of Fortnite's Battle Bus, with players jumping out of it.

Update: A judge has partially granted Epic’s requests, so they should keep their dev accounts for now.

Losing the ability to keep developing Unreal Engine for Mac and iOS could really harm both Epic Games and the developers who rely on them, Microsoft have said in a legal statement supporting Epic. The Unreal lords are trying to get a court to stop Apple from terminating their developer accounts, which is due to happen on Friday unless their lawyers deliver a victory royale. It’s one messy consequence of Epic’s legal battle against Apple and Google over app store fees, which sure has escalated since starting with Fortnite microtransactions.

Sick of Apple and Google’s app stores taking a 30% cut of sales and microtransactions, Epic this month added a new payment system to Fortnite which bypassed them and gave players a better price on V-Bucks. This being against both stores’ rules, both swiftly kicked Fortnite off. Epic returned with lawsuits accusing both companies of “monopolistic” and “anti-competitive” behaviour, and a cringeworthy anti-Apple propaganda video. Apple then escalated, threatening to terminate Epic’s Apple developer accounts, which will cut them off so they can no longer update not only the Apple version of Fortnite but the entire Unreal Engine. This would be a huge problem for Epic and for devs who use Unreal Engine on mobile, so Epic have asked courts to intervene. On Friday, as The Verge reported, Microsoft voiced their support for Epic’s motion.

“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,” said Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager of Gaming Developer Experiences. Their own Forza Street is one of the many Unreal Engine games on iOS. He explained that Unreal Engine losing some platforms might put developers off using it, and might harm those who already are.

“If the game engine can no longer develop updates that take advantage of new iOS or macOS features, fix software bugs, or patch security flaws, this will harm games that have already launched on iOS and macOS (and, in turn, harm gamers),” he said. So yeah, Microsoft want Epic to keep their developer access.

“Ensuring that Epic has access to the latest Apple technology is the right thing for gamer developers & gamers,” Xbox head Phil Spencer added on Twitter.

Apple filed their opposition to Epic’s motion on Friday, calling them out:

“In the wake of its own voluntary actions, Epic now seeks emergency relief. But the ’emergency’ is entirely of Epic’s own making. 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. So when Epic wilfully and knowingly breached its agreements by secretly installing a ‘hotfix’ into its app to bypass Apple’s payment system and App Review Process, it knew full well what would happen and, in so doing, has knowingly and purposefully created the harm to game players and developers it now asks the Court to step in and remedy.”

Epic responded to Apple’s opposition on Saturday, arguing over whether they violated agreements, and saying that Apple cutting off their dev accounts would be “overbroad relation”. Epic say, “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 seemingly wanted to spark public debate over store cuts and fees but it’s become a far larger problem for them, and many people who rely on them. It’s distasteful for Epic to be pissing about with daft Fortnite prizes mocking Apple when there may be dire consequences for developers who use Unreal Engine, and who didn’t ask to be dragged into Epic’s war. I too would like to see smaller fees and more freedom on app stores; I do not support how Epic are going about it; I am appalled that Apple are willing to risk so much collateral damage. A real garbage situation.

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