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Apple Cancels Epic Games’ Developer Account, Citing Threat to iOS Ecosystem

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 8, 2024
Apple Cancels Epic Games' Developer Account, Citing Threat to iOS Ecosystem

Apple Cancels Epic Games’ Developer Account, Citing Threat to iOS Ecosystem

Apple has recently taken a bold step by terminating Epic Games’ developer account, branding the Fortnite creator a ‘threat’ to its iOS ecosystem. This latest development in the Apple-Epic saga casts a long shadow over the future of app competition on the iOS platform, especially in the context of the European Union’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Epic’s Hopes Dashed by Apple’s Decision

Epic Games, known for its popular game Fortnite, had previously announced that Apple had approved its developer account last month. This approval was a beacon of hope for Epic to reintroduce Fortnite on iOS devices within the EU, leveraging the DMA’s provisions aimed at fostering competition. However, this hope was short-lived as Epic Games revealed that Apple’s legal team had issued a termination notice for its Epic Games Sweden AB account. Epic interprets this action as a direct violation of the DMA and a clear signal that Apple is not ready to welcome genuine competition on its iOS devices.

What Sparked the Conflict Between Apple and Epic?

  • Epic’s Public Criticism: Epic’s critique of Apple’s DMA proposals, highlighted by CEO Tim Sweeney’s post on X (formerly Twitter), sparked friction.
  • Long-standing Feud: The ongoing legal and regulatory battles between Epic and Apple over market dominance and alleged unfair practices.
  • Potential Rival Elimination: Apple’s termination of Epic’s account is described by Epic as a move to eliminate a significant competitor to the Apple App Store.
  • Warning to Developers: According to Epic, the termination serves as a caution to other developers about the repercussions of challenging or criticizing Apple.

Epic’s Commitment Questioned by Apple

Epic alleges that despite its assurances to adhere to Apple’s developer agreements, including a written commitment following a request for a DMA consultation that Apple initially denied, Apple proceeded to terminate its account. This termination, Epic claims, is an act of retaliation for its outspoken criticism and legal confrontations with Apple over antitrust concerns.

In a letter dated February 23, 2024, from Apple executive Phil Schiller to Epic, Apple reminiscences about Epic’s history of agreement breaches and its public disdain for Apple’s efforts to comply with the DMA. Schiller’s letter casts doubts on Epic Sweden’s intentions to abide by Apple’s rules, citing past intentional breaches that compromised the iOS platform’s integrity and user security and privacy.

How Does Apple Justify Its Action Against Epic?

Apple, in its statement, reaffirmed its legal right to terminate any of Epic’s related entities at its discretion—a right backed by a court judgment stemming from Epic’s litigation against Apple. This judgment, Apple notes, is predicated on Epic’s contractual breach by integrating third-party payment options in Fortnite, which led to the game’s expulsion from the App Store in 2020.

The termination casts a shadow over Epic’s ambitions to launch its app store on iOS in the EU, an initiative buoyed by the DMA’s impending enforcement aimed at breaking open the digital market to competition. Despite this setback, Tim Sweeney suggested that Fortnite could still find its way back to iOS through other third-party app stores in the European Union.

What’s Next for Epic After Apple’s Termination?

Apple’s stance, detailed in statements and correspondence shared by Epic, underscores a deep-seated mistrust towards Epic, fueled by past violations and ongoing critical commentary on Apple’s policies and DMA compliance strategies. This includes Sweeney’s critique of Apple’s “Core Technology Fee” for app installs beyond the first million in the EU, which he deems anticompetitive.

Epic vows to continue its quest to introduce competition and choice to iOS devices, not just in Europe but globally. It has notified the European Commission about Apple’s decision to terminate its developer account, urging swift action against Apple’s non-compliance with the DMA.

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Featured Image courtesy of Dado Ruvic/REUTERS

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.