Apple threatens to boot Epic—including Unreal Engine—off Mac and iOS

Enlarge / A Fortnite loading screen displayed on an iPhone in 2018, when Apple and Epic weren’t at each other’s legal throats.

The new legal battle between game developer Epic and iPhone-maker Apple continues to heat up, as Epic says Apple will be cutting it off from the developer platform for Mac and iOS before the end of this month.

Epic wrote in a court filing (PDF) that Apple said its membership in the Developer Program will be terminated as of August 28. ,According to Epic, Apple’s move threatens not only Fortnite but also every game that uses Unreal Engine: “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,” Epic said.

“If your membership is terminated, you may no longer submit apps to the ‌App Store‌, and your apps still available for distribution will be removed,” the letter said.

According to the filing, Apple informed Epic that upon termination from the program, a lengthy list of tools and features would no longer be available to it, including software development kits (SDKs), application programming interfaces (APIs), and a host of other tools. Epic would also no longer be able to conduct “Engineering efforts to improve hardware and software performance of Unreal Engine on Mac and iOS hardware; optimize Unreal Engine on the Mac for creative workflows, virtual sets and their CI/Build Systems; and adoption and support of ARKit features and future VR features into Unreal Engine by their XR team.”

Fortnite is currently available for Mac through Epic’s own digital storefront, which does not break Apple’s rules.

“The damage… will be unquantifiable and irreparable”

“This would be an existential threat to the Unreal Engine,” Epic said. “The damage to Epic’s ongoing business and to its reputation and trust with its customers will be unquantifiable and irreparable.”

Epic on Thursday effectively goaded Apple into pulling Fortnite from its App Store by launching a new end-run around Apple’s rules for in-app purchases. Less than an hour after Fortnite was taken down, Epic filed a suit (PDF) accusing Apple of anticompetitive behavior.

“Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation,” Epic alleged in its suit. “Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history.”

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