Last Monday, the judge overseeing the court battle between Apple and Epic games essentially ruled exactly as we expected. She said that the game developer created the issue itself and had the power to remedy the situation by removing its own in-app payment system from Fortnite. By offering its own in-app payment system (IAP), Epic was eliminating the so-called 30% Apple Tax that developers pay for the privilege of using Apple's IAP. Epic's lawyers were hoping to persuade the judge that Apple's anti-competitive actions were behind the whole affair, but the judge didn't bother to consider that possibility.
Let's back this up for a second. When Apple discovered that Epic had offered its own workaround for making online payments, it announced that it would close Epic's iOS and macOS developer accounts starting on August 28th. Anyone get a look at the calendar today? Epic also lost access to the tools it needs to update the game. Thus, players of Fortnite who have it installed on their iOS or macOS devices will be able to play Fortnite but won't be allowed to update the game.
And that brings us to the Unreal Engine. Created by Epic, the latter is a game engine that helps developers create 3D graphics. Since banning the Unreal Engine could do harm to other developers not involved in this battle, Kevin Gammill, Microsoft’s general manager for Gaming Developer Experiences, filed a declaration with the court that read "If Unreal Engine cannot support games for iOS or macOS, Microsoft would be required to choose between abandoning its customers and potential customers on the iOS and macOS platforms or choosing a different game engine when preparing to develop new games. Apple's discontinuation of Epic's ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers."
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers refused to grant Epic's request to issue a Temporary Restraining Order against Apple that would have barred it from kicking Fortnite out of the App Store while closing Epic's developer accounts. The judge did say that she was inclined to protect the Unreal Engine from Apple.
So Epic is, for now, blocked from its iOS and macOS developer accounts. A hearing on a preliminary injunction is scheduled for September 28th. Meanwhile, Apple has told Epic that if it were to "comply with the App Store guidelines, "we will gladly welcome Fortnite back onto iOS." At this moment, it doesn't seem that this is a possibility. Apple keeps telling Epic that everything will be just fine if it were to just give in and do what Apple tells it to do
In a statement Apple said, "We are disappointed that we have had to terminate the Epic Games account on the App Store. We have worked with the team at Epic Games for many years on their launches and releases. The court recommended that Epic comply with the App Store guidelines while their case moves forward, guidelines they've followed for the past decade until they created this situation. Epic has refused. Instead they repeatedly submit Fortnite updates designed to violate the guidelines of the App Store. This is not fair to all other developers on the App Store and is putting customers in the middle of their fight. We hope that we can work together again in the future, but unfortunately that is not possible today."
And once again the 30% Apple Tax rears its ugly head.