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Apple blocks ‘Fortnite’ maker Epic Games’s app store plans in Europe as public war escalates

Epic Games
Epic Games

Apple blocked “Fortnite” maker Epic Games from launching its own third-party app store for iPhone and iPad customers in Europe – a stunning escalation of the long-running legal feud between the two tech giants.

The Cupertino, Calif-based company terminated the developer account for Epic Games’ Swedish affiliate, effectively nixing the video game maker’s plans to offer “Fortnite” and its “Epic Games Store” directly to Apple customers. Apple had approved the developer account just a few weeks earlier.

The broadside came on the eve of a key deadline to comply with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act – a sweeping law aimed reining in Apple and other so-called “gatekeeper” tech companies. Apple had previously announced it would allow third-party app stores on its devices in order to comply with the new rules.

Epic Games described Apple’s move as a “serious violation of the DMA” that “shows Apple has no intention of allowing true competition on iOS devices.”

Epic Games and Apple have engaged in a long-running legal war. REUTERS
Epic Games and Apple have engaged in a long-running legal war. REUTERS

“In terminating Epic’s developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store,” Epic Games said in a statement. “They are undermining our ability to be a viable competitor and they are showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices.”

Apple said in a statement that it believes it has the right to revoke Epic’s developer agreement because past court rulings found it has “sole discretion” to terminate such deals for contract violations.

“In light of Epic’s past and ongoing behavior, Apple chose to exercise that right,” Apple said.

As part of a compliance plan published in January, Apple said it would allow developers to opt-out of its App Store payment system. However, Apple would retain the right to review their apps before they could be sold to iPhone customers and would charge a “core technology fee” – moves that violated the spirit of Europe’s new law, according to the company’s critics.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney had publicly ripped Apple’s plan as an example of “malicious compliance,” referring to the company’s proposed rules as “hot garbage” and a “horror show” in a scathing tweet.

Epic Games is best known as the publisher of “Fortnite.” SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Epic Games is best known as the publisher of “Fortnite.” SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

In another eyebrow-raising twist, Epic Games said Apple informed them the move was partially due to Sweeney’s public criticism of its business practices on X. To back up the claim, Epic took the rare step of publishing a letter it received from Apple App Store chief Phil Schiller.

“Your colorful criticism of our DMA compliance plan, coupled with Epic’s past practice of intentionally violating contractual provisions with which it disagrees, strongly suggest that Epic Sweden does not intend to follow the rules,” Schiller said in the letter.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney is pictured. REUTERS
Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney is pictured. REUTERS

Epic has been among the most vocal critics of Apple’s handling of the App Store, where it has historically charged large companies commission fees of up to 30% for in-app purchases.

In 2020, Apple blocked “Fortnite” from its App Store after Epic Games enabled a feature that allowed customers to pay them directly. A lawsuit filed by Epic Games resulted in a split verdict in 2021 that largely favored Apple.

Appeals by both companies sent the lawsuit all the way to the US Supreme Court, but justices declined to hear the case earlier this year.