Epic Games says Apple terminated its iOS developer account after criticism

Just when you thought Fortnite was coming back to iOS, Apple and Epic Games take their feud to new heights.

Epic Games says Apple terminated its iOS developer account after criticism
Fortnite on iPhone beside Apple logo

If Fortnite fans were hoping that Apple and Epic Games were repairing their relationship after the latter announced that the popular battle royale game was headed back to iPhone in the EU – well, we have some bad news.

According to Epic Games, Apple just completely terminated its developer account. As a result, Epic Games will no longer be able to launch its Epic Games Store in the EU. And, this means that Fortnite's return to the iPhone may potentially be canceled as well.

"We recently announced that Apple approved our Epic Games Sweden AB developer account," reads Epic Games' statement published on Wednesday. "We intended to use that account to bring the Epic Games Store and Fortnite to iOS devices in Europe thanks to the Digital Markets Act (DMA). To our surprise, Apple has terminated that account and now we cannot develop the Epic Games Store for iOS."

"This is a serious violation of the DMA and shows Apple has no intention of allowing true competition on iOS devices," the statement from Epic Games continues.

Here's what's going on between Apple and Epic Games

This month, new EU regulations called the Digital Markets Act (DMA) officially go into effect in the EU. These rules require that Big Tech companies, like Apple, open up its core platforms to competition from third parties.

The biggest change this has required of Apple is that the company has to allow "alternative marketplaces" access to distribute apps on users' iOS devices, in direct competition with its official App Store. This change allows developers who want to avoid Apple's App Store rules the ability to still distribute apps to users on the iPhone.

Because of Apple's new DMA-required rules, Epic Games decided to create its own alternative app marketplace for iPhone and distribute its Fortnite app there, making them game available for EU players on iOS for the first time in years.

However, Apple's new App Store policies were also heavily criticized by Meta, Microsoft, Spotify, and Epic Games itself. While these alternative marketplaces were a move in the right direction, Apple created a system where it still profited off of developers distributing their apps through these App Store competitors. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney described Apple's DM-inspired rules as "malicious compliance."

Epic Games provided an email from Apple where the iPhone-maker cited several statements made by Sweeney which were highly critical of the company. Apple cites these statements along with Epic Games' past history with Apple as the reason its terminating the Fortnite developer's account.

"This is the post Apple cited when banning the Epic Games Store from competing with the iOS App Store under Europe's new DMA law," said Sweeney in a post on X "Criticism of Apple = untrustworthiness, in Apple leadership's bleak vision of their future relationship with app developers."

Sweeney included the X thread cited by Apple in its notification to the company where the Epic Games CEO called out Apple for its monopoly of certain products and services. Apple also cited Sweeney's now infamous description of Apple's "malicious compliance" when dealing with regulations.

Apple vs. Epic Games saga continues

The feud between Apple and Epic Games has been going on for years now. Back in 2020, Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store after Epic Games rolled out a way for Fortnite gamers to purchase in-game currency known as V-Bucks at a discount by bypassing Apple's App Store's in-app purchases.

Since Epic Games tried to avoid paying Apple its 30 percent cut from in-app purchases over three years ago, Fortnite has been unavailable on iOS devices.

Epic Games and Apple have been embroiled in legal battles ever since.

When the DMA was passed in the EU, Epic Games was one of the first major developers to jump at the opportunity to take advantage of the new regulations Apple would be forced to abide by. Epic Games quickly applied for a developer account and was approved by Apple. Epic Games then announced that Fortnite would be returning to the EU on iPhone as a result of these developments.

Now that Apple has terminated Epic Games' developer account, all of the video game developers' plans are indefinitely paused at the very least.

What's next for Fortnite on iPhone?

Epic Games has made it clear that its not giving up on iPhone users.

"This is a serious violation of the EU’s Digital Markets Act," Epic Games said in a statement regarding Apple's termination of its developer account. "We will continue to fight to get back on iOS!"

Epic Games will make its case to the European Commission, which can fine Apple and force it to rethink its decisions if the company is found to be in violation of the DMA.

Leveraging the power of the European Commission can actually work because EU regulators hold significant sway over Apple. Meta and Microsoft have already reportedly been lobbying the EU in response to Apple's App Store changes. And, Apple was recently fined in the EU after a formal complaint was made to EU regulators by Spotify.

Apple recently came out swinging against Spotify, in an uncharacteristic public statement attacking the music streaming service for "paying nothing" to Apple yet wanting "more" as a result of Spotify's antitrust complaint.

But, even though Spotify has potentially cost Apple billions of dollars, it didn't go as far as terminating Spotify's developer account, as happened with Epic Games. Apple cites Epic Games' public criticism as one of the factors in ending the two companies' developer relationship. Yet, Spotify has been publicly critical too.

What makes Epic Games so different from Spotify? According to the Wall Street Journal, an Apple spokesperson said a past legal decision gave the iPhone maker the right to make this move if it violated Apple's rules. "In light of Epic’s past and ongoing behavior, Apple chose to exercise that right," they said. It's worth noting, however, that Spotify is not currently planning to compete with the App Store with an alternative marketplace of its own like Epic Games is.

The ball is now in the EU regulators' court.

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