Epic says its iOS game store plans are stalled because Apple banned its developer account

An illustration of Epic Games’ logo.

Epic’s plans to release its own third-party app store on iOS in the EU could be in trouble after Apple terminated the developer account it planned to use. In a blog post published today, the company shared a letter sent by Apple’s lawyers, which called Epic “verifiably untrustworthy” and said Apple does not believe that Epic will comply with its contractual commitments under its developer agreement.

“Please be advised that Apple has, effective immediately, terminated the Developer Program membership of Epic Games Sweden AB,” the letter — which is dated March 2nd — states. It cites Apple’s “contractual right” to terminate its Developer Program License Agreement with the company at “Apple’s sole discretion.”

While Apple’s termination of the developer account impacts Epic’s plans to launch its own app store on iOS, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney suggested in a briefing that Epic could still bring Fortnite back to iOS via another company’s third-party app store in the European Union.

The exchange came in the wake of Apple announcing plans to allow third-party app stores on iOS in the EU as a result of the bloc’s new Digital Markets Act regulation, which goes into effect this week. Epic quickly announced plans to launch a game store on iOS as a result of the changes and relaunch Fortnite on the platform following its removal in 2020. It announced it had secured a developer account for Epic Games Sweden on February 16th, reversing a ban Apple implemented alongside Fortnite’s removal.

In an email dated February 23rd shared by Epic Games, Apple’s Phil Schiller contacted Sweeney to ask for “written assurance” that Epic Games will “honor its commitments.” Schiller cited concerns with Sweeney’s public statements about Apple’s DMA compliance plan and the fact that Epic breached its agreement with Apple in 2020 by adding third-party payment support to Fortnite on iOS, resulting in its removal from the App Store. “In plain, unqualified terms, please tell us why we should trust Epic this time,” Schiller’s email concludes.

Sweeney responded the same day. “Epic and its subsidiaries are acting in good faith and will comply with all terms of current and future agreements with Apple, and we’ll be glad to provide Apple with any specific further assurances on the topic that you’d like,” Sweeney wrote.

Then, on March 2nd, Apple’s lawyers sent a letter to Epic to say the iPhone maker had terminated Epic Games Sweden’s developer account. “In the past, Epic has denigrated Apple’s developer terms, including the Developer Program License Agreement (DPLA), as a prelude to breaking them,” the letter reads. “Given that pattern, Apple recently reached out directly to Mr. Sweeney to give him an opportunity to explain why Apple should trust Epic this time and allow Epic Games Sweden AB to become an active developer. Mr. Sweeney’s response to that request was wholly insufficient and not credible.”

The letter also cites a February 26th X post from Sweeney and “a recent submission in the Australian litigation” and said Apple is concerned that Epic Games Sweden “does not intend to adhere to its contractual commitments to Apple and is in fact a vehicle to manipulate proceedings in other jurisdictions.” In a briefing with reporters, Epic’s vice president of public policy, Corie Wright, said Epic’s submission in Australian litigation amounted to it confirming its public plans to launch an app store in the EU as a result of the DMA.

In the briefing, Sweeney said that Epic received no communication from Apple between Schiller’s email and the letter from Apple’s lawyers and said that he’d have been willing to provide “any assurance they’d like” to abide by the contractual agreement. When asked whether Epic planned to abide by Apple’s developer terms despite Sweeney’s public criticism of its policies, Sweeney responded, “Yes, absolutely.”

In its blog post, Epic accused Apple of “taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store,” “undermining [its] ability to be a viable competitor,” and “showing other developers what happens when you try to compete with Apple or are critical of their unfair practices.”

Sweeney has been intensely critical of how the iPhone maker is implementing the changes to iOS under the DMA, calling them a “new instance of Malicious Compliance” and “hot garbage.” He said Apple is “forcing developers to choose between App Store exclusivity and the store terms, which will be illegal under DMA, or accept a new also-illegal anticompetitive scheme rife with new Junk Fees on downloads and new Apple taxes on payments they don’t process.”

In particular, Apple’s critics have objected to its plans to charge a 50 euro cent “Core Technology Fee” for each annual app install past the first 1 million downloads in the EU, which could quickly add up for larger developers.

Epic’s blog post concludes by saying the developer plans to “continue to fight to bring true competition and choice to iOS devices in Europe and around the world.” Epic’s Wright confirmed that the company has made the European Commission aware of the fact that Apple has terminated its developer account. “Obvious non-compliance should be punished swiftly and speedily,” Sweeney said in a briefing.

Screenshots of its three written exchanges with Apple shared by Epic Games can be found below:

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