Apple and Epic Game’s spat continues, with Apple now issuing a countersuit against the Fortnite creator, accusing them of “subterfuge” and “theft.”
In the filing, Apple dismisses Epic’s “nothing more than a basic disagreement over money,” stating that the company wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value” it received from having Fortnite on the App Store.
Following the countersuit, Epic Games initially announced that Fortnite users would no longer be able to use Apple’s official sign-in system from September 11 onwards, but Apple has since provided an “indefinite extension” – though Epic encourages users to update their accounts to retain access to the game, as it is unclear on how long this will last.
“Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood,” reads the filing, “in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store. Epic’s demands for special treatment and cries of “retaliation” cannot be reconciled with its flagrant breach of contract and its own business practices, as it rakes in billions by taking commissions on game developers’ sales and charging consumers up to $99.99 for bundles of “V-Bucks.”
“As recently as April 2020, Epic executives recognized and thanked Apple for its support and promotion of Fortnite events. But sometime before June 2020, things changed. Epic decided that it would like to reap the benefits of the App Store without paying anything for them.”
Apple alleges that on June 30, 2020, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney emailed Apple to request that Epic be exempt from its contractual obligations to Apple, including the 30 per cent platform fee that Sweeney has been publicly critical of.
When Apple refused, the company claims that Epic resorted to “subterfuge,” issuing a hotfix that allowed Epic to bypass the App Store’s review process. This is what lead to Fortnite allowing users to circumvent Apple’s own in-game payment system and instead pay Epic directly.
“Unbeknownst to Apple,” reads the filing, “Epic had been busy enlisting a legion of lawyers, publicists, and technicians to orchestrate a sneak assault on the App Store. Shortly after 2:00 a.m. on August 13, 2020, the morning on which Epic would activate its hidden commission-theft functionality, Mr. Sweeney again emailed Apple executives, declaring that “Epic will no longer adhere to Apple’s payment processing restrictions.” According to Mr. Sweeney, Epic would continue to use Apple’s App Store but would “offer customers the choice” to pay Epic instead of Apple, effectively depriving Apple of any return on its innovation and investment in the App Store and placing Epic in open breach of years-long contractual obligations to which Epic and all other Apple developers have agreed.
“Hours after Mr. Sweeney’s 2:00 a.m. email, Epic triggered the “hotfix” it previously planted in Fortnite to push through a new external payment runaround—which Epic had deliberately concealed from Apple’s app review process—that usurped Apple’s commission and brazenly flouted its rules. This was little more than theft. Epic sought to enjoy all of the benefits of Apple’s iOS platform and related services while its “hotfix” lined Epic’s pockets at Apple’s expense.”
“Epic fired the first shot in this dispute, and its willful, brazen, and unlawful conduct cannot be left unchecked.”