The battle between Epic and Apple could quickly escalate and affect developers using Unreal Engine to develop and deploy titles on the App Store.
A recent legal filing by Epic stated that Apple had threatened to “terminate Epic’s membership in its Developer Program ‘within 14 days’ if Epic did not remove Fortnite’s alternative in-app payment system and comply with other demands.”
That would mean that Unreal Engine would be cut adrift from iOS, which would quickly prevent developers from releasing their games on new versions of iOS for instance. And would prevent Epic from updating Unreal Engine “to improve hardware and software performance.”
Epic’s main concern is that developers will simply move titles in development to other platforms because of the uncertainty that such a move would cause, which Epic describes as “a direct attack on the ongoing viability of the Unreal Engine.”
In response Apple made a statement saying, as before, that the whole issue is Epic’s creation and that it can fix it by simply reverting to comply with its guidelines, and again reiterating that it won’t make an exception for Epic – despite Epic stating repeatedly that’s not what it’s looking for.
“We very much want to keep the company as part of the Apple Developer Program and their apps on the Store. The problem Epic has created for itself is one that can easily be remedied if they submit an update of their app that reverts it to comply with the guidelines they agreed to and which apply to all developers. We won’t make an exception for Epic because we don’t think it’s right to put their business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.
Now, whether Apple would actually persecute numerous developers of apps on its store that use Unreal Engine in order to defeat Epic is another matter. The fallout from developers against Apple would be huge, and it would further reinforce the accusation that Apple held unfair power over developers – not only by charging them 30 per cent in most cases, but also deciding what tools they can and can’t use to create apps for the store.
Still, it appears that Apple certainly has threatened such action against Epic, and so Epic has little choice now to try and obtain an injunction against it, in order to give it time for the larger issue of payment systems to work its way through the courts.