JK, Apple Will Let Epic Games Start an EU App Store After All


Update (March 8, 2024): Epic Games has its developer account back, putting the company on track to bring games like Fortnite to iPhone users in the EU. Epic announced the news on its website, celebrating the move as a win for developers and the Digital Markets Act. In an email to The Verge, Apple says Epic Games agreed to follow its rules regarding the DMA, so they reversed their decision to ban Epic from developing a third-party app store in the EU.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, cheered the win on X:

The original article is as follows:

Epic Games isn’t happy with Apple. The iPhone maker has reportedly terminated the developer account Epic Games was planning to use to create the “Epic Games Store” on iOS devices in Europe, less than three weeks after Epic Games secured the account in the first place.

The issue stems from changes Apple was forced to make to iOS in the wake of a new E.U. ruling, which directed the company to open up its platform to third-party app stores. This allows companies like Epic Games to create their own app stores for iOS, so long as they adhere to Apple’s rules. Epic was using the opportunity to bring Fortnite back to iOS, at least for players in the E.U. Even with this setback, CEO Tim Sweeney still thinks Epic get game running on iOS through another third-party app store.

In the meantime, Epic Games is arguing that this move is in violation of the new Digital Markets Act (DMA), and will drive other developers away from creating third-party app stores in the E.U. And they’ve vowed to fight back. Again.

The timeline of Epic’s developer account woes

The company had zero issue sharing their correspondences with Apple on their blog post announcing the account termination. In it, we see Epic Games’ Steven Allison reach out to Apple on Feb. 16 requesting more information about the developer program, as well as a consultation session with Apple. Five days later, on Feb. 21, they shared their disappointment surrounding Apple’s decision not to provide them a slot for a consultation.

On Feb. 23, we see an email to Epic Games from Apple Fellow Phil Schiller, who expresses cynicism about Epic Games’ motives in the developer program. Schiller cites Epic Games previously calling Apple’s Digital Markets Act compliance plan “hot garbage,” a “horror show,” and a “devious new instance of Malicious Compliance,” and claiming that Epic Games had broken Apple rules in the past, in addition to complaining about “Junk Fees” and “Apple taxes.”

Still, Schiller invites Epic Games to provide written assurance that their interest in the developer program was in good faith. A few hours later, Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney assures Schiller Epic is acting in good faith, and that Epic could share additional assurances if Apple would like.

Eight days later, on March 2, Apple’s lawyers share the news that the company does not believe Epic Games’ claims of acting in good faith, and subsequently terminates the developer account. The letter specifically cites this post from Sweeney on X as an example of Epic’s “public attacks on Apple’s policies, compliance plan, and business model.”

Apple and Epic are not friends

This latest incident is but another in a string of spats between the two companies dating back to 2020, when both Apple and Google removed Fortnite from their respective app stores in retaliation for Epic Games’ decision to bypass both companies in-app purchase rules. It was Apple that received Epic’s eternal loathing, as Google’s open market platform allowed Epic to run their own store for users to download Fortnite from. Since Apple only allows apps to be sold on its App Store, that means no more Fortnite for iPhone.

Epic previously sued Apple over this issue, and lost on nearly every count. Nearly: The court bought Epic’s argument that Apple was breaking the law by blocking developers from allowing users to pay them directly, and ruled the company must allow developers the option to tell users about alternative payment options.

Where do we go from here?

The ball is likely back in the E.U.’s court (no pun intended). This is the first major test of Apple’s compliance within the DMA: Will the E.U. Commission find the company has the right to block developers based on this level of evidence, or will they rule Apple needs more cause to kick developer off its platform?

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