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Apple calls Epic 'verifiably untrustworthy' and blocks Fortnite and App store on iOS

UPDATE: European Commission has requested "further explanations" from Apple, is also reevaluating compliance with Digital Services Act

Original Story, Wednesday March 6, 2024: Apple has blocked Epic's bid to launch Epic Games Store and Fortnite on iOS devices because it doesn't trust the games giant.

Epic had its 'Epic Games Sweden AB' developer account approved by Apple last month, which paved the way for Epic Games Store and Fortnite hit the platform. The move followed the introduction of the Digital Markets Act in Europe which, amongst other things, requires Apple to allow third-party app stores on iOS.

Epic says the move "is a serious violation of the DMA and shows Apple has no intention of allowing true competition on iOS devices."

"In terminating Epic’s developer account, Apple is taking out one of the largest potential competitors to the Apple App Store. 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," the firm said in a statement.

"If Apple maintains its power to kick a third party marketplace off iOS at its sole discretion, no reasonable developer would be willing toutilize a third party app store, because they could be permanently separated from their audience at any time."

The issue stems from a trust issue between Apple and Epic. Epic has been a vocal critic of Apple's terms, which sees the technology giant take a 30% fee on all payments made via the App Store. In 2020, Epic introduced the ability for Fortnite players to buy items directly from Epic, and offered a discount for anyone that did. This led to Apple kicking the hit game off the App Store.

Although the DMA effectively allows Epic to now sell directly on iOS, CEO Tim Sweeney remains critical of Apple's DMA compliance. He called it a "devious new instance of Malicious Compliance" in a post on X back in January.

Sweeney was critical of the firm's new terms and additional fees Apple was charging developers for using alternative stores.

"They are 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," Sweeney said.

In an email to Tim Sweeney, Apple executive Phil Schiller cited these previous instances. He wrote: "Your colorful criticism of our DMA compliance plan, coupled with Epic past practice of intentionally violating contractual provisions with which it disagrees, strongly suggests that Epic Sweden does not intend to follow the rules".

Schiller asked Epic to provide written reassurance that it is acting in good faith and Epic will honour its commitments. He concluded: "please tell us why we should trust Epic this time"?

Sweeney responded with a short email stating that "Epic and its subsidiaries are acting in good faith and will comply with all terms of current and future agreements with Apple", and offered to provide more specific assurances.

Apple found the response "wholly insufficient and not credible". In a letter, it said Epic is "verifiable untrustworthy", citing previous criticism of the company, and that it has terminated the developer account.

Update, Thursday March 7, 2024: EU antitrust regulators have asked Apple for "further explanations" on why it is blocking Epic Games from launching its own app store on iOS, a European Commission spokesperson told Reuters.

The spokesperson added that the EC is "also evaluating whether Apple's actions raise doubts on their compliance with the Digital Services Act and Platform to Business Regulation" in addition to the Digital Markets Act.

Update, Thursday March 7, 2024: EU antitrust regulators have asked Apple for "further explanations" on why it is blocking Epic Games from launching its own app store on iOS, a European Commission spokesperson told Reuters.

The spokesperson added that the EC is "also evaluating whether Apple's actions raise doubts on their compliance with the Digital Services Act and Platform to Business Regulation" in addition to the Digital Markets Act.

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Christopher Dring avatar
Christopher Dring: Chris is a 17-year media veteran specialising in the business of video games. And, erm, Doctor Who
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