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Apple bans Epic Games from App store after anti-trust lawsuit

Apple retaliated against Epic Games after being served an anti-trust lawsuit for pulling the wildly popular video game Fortnite from the App Store. 

The tech giant is set to remove Epic Games’s developer account from the platform on August 28 – banning the firm from designing apps for the App Store in the future.

Epic is not taking the move lightly and is seeking to block the removal of Fortnite from the App Store, along with requesting the judge prevent any retaliatory action against its other games in the store.

In its filing, Epic Chief Executive Timothy Sweeney said ‘Fortnite’ had 350 million registered users as of June 2020, but that Apple’s move will stop them from getting the updates needed to play the game’s most popular mode – a ‘Battle Royale’ match of up 100 players where the last survivor wins.

‘Apple´s actions will ‘break’ Fortnite for millions of existing players,’ Sweeney wrote, saying Epic updates the game every few weeks. 

‘Because iOS users can no longer update the game, they will be unable to play Fortnite with most other players, who will have the then-current version available on other platforms’ such as PCs.

The feud began a week ago when Epic Games released its own direct payment on its website that provides users with discounts and avoids paying Apple a 30 percent fee of in-app purchases, which the tech giant cites as a violation.

Epic sued in US court seeking no money from Apple, but rather injunctions that would end many of the companies’ practices related to their app stores. 

  

The video game firm also attacked Apple on social media, launching a campaign with the hashtag #FreeFortnite, urging players to seek refunds from Apple if they lose access to the game, and creating a parody of Apple’s famous ‘1984’ television ad.

Epic Games lawyers wrote in a Monday filing: ‘Then when Epic sued Apple to break its monopoly on app stores and in-app payments, Apple retaliated ferociously.’

‘It told Epic that by August 28, Apple will cut off Epic’s access to all development tools necessary to create software for Apple’s platforms – including for the Unreal Engine Epic offers to third-party developers, which Apple has never claimed violated any Apple policy.’

A developer account provides customers with early access to Apple’s updated iOS, along with advanced capabilities to design apps that will be displayed in the App Store.

In addition to making its own titles, Epic also makes tools for other game developers such as the Unreal Engine, which helps game developers create three-dimensional graphics. 

The tool is also used by medical imaging companies and car designers and is used by millions of developers, Epic said. 

Epic alleged that if Apple cuts off its access to Apple’s developers, it will be unable to keep offering the Unreal Engine for Mac and iPhone operating systems, which would in turn affect hundreds of game titles. Some of the games, such as PUBG, have hundreds of millions of players, Epic wrote in its filing.

‘The effects will reverberate well beyond video games; it will affect developers who use the Unreal Engine on Apple products in many fields,’ Epic said in its filing asking the court to issue an order blocking Apple’s move. 

‘The ensuing impact on the Unreal Engine´s viability, and the trust and confidence developers have in that engine, cannot be repaired with a monetary award.’

However, it seems the gloves are off for Epic and Apple, leaving the game maker unable to design any future apps for the tech giant’s platform.

‘Apple’s removal of Fortnite is yet another example of Apple flexing its enormous power in order to impose unreasonable restraints and unlawfully maintain its 100 percent monopoly over the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market,’ Epic said in a statement.

Apple takes a cut of between 15 per cent and 30 per cent for most app subscriptions and payments made inside apps, though there are some exceptions for companies that already have a credit card on file for iPhone customers if they also offer an in-app payment that would benefit Apple.

The tech giant has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition and stifle innovation. 

‘Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear,’ Epic said in its lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California.

Epic also attacked Apple on social media, launching a campaign with the hashtag #FreeFortnite, urging players to seek refunds from Apple if they lose access to the game, and creating a parody of Apple’s famous ‘1984’ television ad.

In the parody, which quickly garnered hundreds of thousands of views, a female Fortnite fighter hurls a unicorn-shaped club to smash a screen on which an Apple-headed character speaks of ‘the anniversary of the platform unification directives.’

Google followed Apple’s lead and also removed Fornite from Google Play, citing the payment feature rolled out to the Fornite app as a violation.

In both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store, ‘Fortnite’ had about 2 million downloads in July 2020, according to mobile analytics firm SensorTower. But Apple users spent about $34 million while Android users spent only $2 million, according to SensorTower data.

Because Android functions differently from iOS, users can still download ‘Fortnite’ from Epic’s website and other non-Google stores such as the one run by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and install it on their devices, Epic said in a blog post on Thursday.

‘Epic is not seeking any monetary relief, but rather only an order enjoining Google from continuing to impose its anti-competitive conduct on the Android ecosystem,’ it said in its lawsuit.

Epic Games free-to-play battle-royal videogame ‘Fortnite’ has reached massive popularity among young gamers since its launch in 2017, and competes with Tencent Holdings’ ‘PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’.

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