It was too much to hope for that Epic Games and Apple would take their fight quietly to a court room, it seems. After their very dramatic 1984 propaganda spinoff video, Epic are committed to having it out in public. The latest legal maneuver in the proceedings comes from Epic, who have asked the a US district court for northern California to prevent Apple from terminating their developer program account and reinstate Fortnite in the App Store.
Epic initially kicked off the disagreement last week by bypassing the cut of sales that Apple takes from Fortnite V-Bucks purchases through the App Store, which led to Apple removing Fortnite from the store. Apple are now threatening to terminate Epic's developer program account on August 28th, which would prevent Epic from developing updates for their Unreal Engine game development software relevant to iOS devices.
Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store and has informed Epic that on Friday, August 28 Apple will terminate all our developer accounts and cut Epic off from iOS and Mac development tools. We are asking the court to stop this retaliation. Details here: https://t.co/3br1EHmyd8— Epic Games Newsroom (@EpicNewsroom) August 17, 2020
Epic have published the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction request that they've filed. In it, Epic argue that because they believe they're likely to win the initial suit against Apple, the court should maintain the status quo by preventing irreparable harm to Epic's business caused by Apple in the interim.
"Epic faces near-term irreparable harm from the imminent suspension of millions of Fortnite players from playing with their friends and family. And Epic faces harm from Apple’s retaliation in unrelated areas, most notably Apple’s attack on the viability of the Unreal Engine, the most widely used graphics engine in the industry. On the other hand, Apple will not be harmed by issuance of the injunction. An injunction concerning Fortnite would at most cause Apple to lose some commissions, a loss that is fully compensable with damages. An injunction as to the Unreal Engine would not harm Apple at all, except deny it the ability to retaliate against Epic while the dispute is being adjudicated."
Regardless of its legal viability, Epic's concern for Fortnite isn't exactly emotionally compelling. As Alice 0 noticed last week, the quick sequence of events that kicked off the scuffle between these two Goliaths suggests that it was premeditated on Epic's part. Even if they consider the cause a good one, they likely knew that Fortnite would be collateral damage in the short term. Granted, they are right that Fortnite's removal leaves players in the lurch.
Epic's argument over the Unreal Engine, however, is more sympathetic. Not only are Unreal Engine and Fortnite separate products in Epic's stable, but disrupting Unreal development will likely have negative impact on those who are not party to the suit—other developers currently using Unreal to develop iOS applications.
"Developers making apps for multiple platforms or specifically for Apple devices will choose other engines instead of the Unreal Engine to ensure their programs can keep working on Apple products. Developers create products over time and update them for many years. ... The cascading effect of losing ongoing Unreal Engine compatibility will threaten the viability of the engine and disrupt development of a constellation of apps and uses that rely on its graphics to render hundreds of video games, the human brain, Baby Yoda and space flight."
With any luck, a decision on Epic's injunction request will be the last visible jostle before both companies quietly get down to specifics behind closed doors for a year or more. I doubt we should be so lucky though. If not that, I'll at least hope that whatever decision the court makes will prevent harm to other developers who are just trying to do their dang jobs beneath Epic and Apple's giant feet.
Save Baby Yoda, right?